Scientists debut vine-inspired soft robots that can grow on command

The animal kingdom has been a great inspiration when it comes to robot development for a while now, but researchers from Stanford University unveiled a new soft robot that has abilities surpassing currently released soft robots.
The new “Vinebot” was inspired by Ivy vines and can reportedly grow thousands of times its original length from the tip at speeds of up to 22 mph without pause as it navigates through complicated paths, and avoid or address obstacles by growing in another direction. It can keep on growing as long as the operator needs it, for as long as there is still enough plastic folded inside it. Just for comparison, an average person can run up to 15 mph for short periods of time, which means Vinebot would leave a person in the dust in a race.
“Essentially, we’re trying to understand the fundamentals of this new approach to getting mobility or movement out of a mechanism,” Professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the study, Allison Okamura explained.
A team of mechanical engineers led by Professor Okamura detailed their concept for a growing soft robot in a paper published in June. The team also developed a prototype of the Vinebot, which they tested by navigating various obstacles.
The prototype of Vinebot was made of cheap plastic folded inside itself, which can grow by using pressurized air. What is interesting is that other soft robots move the entire length of its body as it “grows,” but Vinebot grows from the tip, so any part of its body that gets affected by the environment will not slow down or hinder its mission in the slightest.