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Scientists at Tufts University have received a $3.3 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop chemical robots that will be so soft and squishy that they will be able to squeeze into spaces as tiny as 1 centimeter, then morph back into something 10 times larger, and ultimately biodegrade.
The advantages of using unmanned devices to conduct dangerous or difficult operations are clear, and the U.S. has invested in such devices for years. But today's rigid robots, constructed mostly of hard materials, are unable to navigate complex environments with openings of arbitrary size and shape. They are stymied by, say, a building whose only access points may be a crack under a door or a conduit for an electrical cable.
This ChemBots award is the latest in a series of DARPA project awards iRobot has won within the past 10 years. DARPA initially approached iRobot in 1998 to create the PackBot for its Tactical Mobile Robot program.
IRobot also makes the popular Roomba vacuuming robot and the iRobot Verro Pool Cleaning machine.