Researchers Revolutionize Navigation with Twisted Ringbots


A groundbreaking innovation has emerged in the developing world of robotics: the twisted ringbot.

Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University, these new soft robots redefine the capabilities of autonomous machines with their unique ability to perform three simultaneous behaviors.

Unlike traditional robots, bent-ring robots can roll forward, spin like a plate, and orbit around a central point without any human or computer intervention.

This remarkable engineering feat holds great promise for navigating and mapping unknown environments and offers a glimpse into the future of soft robotics.

The importance of bent ringbots in the field of soft robotics cannot be ignored. Their ability to navigate autonomously in various modes opens up new possibilities for exploration in areas where traditional robot or human access may be limited or impossible.

This development represents a leap forward in our approach to exploring and understanding the unknown, whether deep-sea environments, complex cave systems, or even extraterrestrial terrains.

Innovative Design and Physical Intelligence

Innovative Intelligence
Innovative Design and Physical Intelligence

Twisted ringbots owe their unique abilities to an innovative design that uses ribbon-like liquid crystal elastomers that resemble twisted rotini noodles.

When these elastomers are formed into a loop, they create a structure that allows robots to move in different ways.

This design is a prime example of what Jie Yin, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, calls “physical intelligence.” In this context, the robot’s actions are determined by its structural design and the materials from which it is made, rather than relying on external controls or programming.

The concept of physical intelligence challenges traditional notions of robotics, where movements and behaviors are typically determined by complex algorithms or direct human control.

Instead, bent ringbots demonstrate that carefully designed materials and structures can naturally provide the capabilities needed to perform specific tasks.

This approach not only simplifies the design and operation of robots, but also increases their reliability and durability in various environments.

Mapping Unknown Environments



Practical applications of bent ringbots, especially in the field of exploration and mapping of unknown environments, are both interesting and far-reaching.

In proof-of-concept tests, researchers demonstrated the extraordinary ability of these soft robots to autonomously navigate and map different areas.

When deployed in confined spaces, ringbots demonstrated an innate ability to follow the contours and boundaries of the space and effectively follow the layout.

This behavior is crucial in scenarios where detailed mapping of unfamiliar or inaccessible environments is required, such as geological surveys, archaeological expeditions, or even search and rescue missions in complex terrains.

A particularly notable aspect of the functionality of bent ringbots is their ability to work collaboratively.

By incorporating multiple ringbots into an environment, each programmed to rotate in different directions, the researchers were able to map more complex areas with greater accuracy.

This collective operation demonstrates the potential of swarm robotics in environmental mapping, allowing comprehensive capture of the layout of an area.

The adaptability and efficiency of these ringbots in navigating diverse spaces highlight their potential as valuable tools in a wide range of exploration and analytical applications.

The Future of Soft Researchers Revolutionize Navigation with Twisted Ringbots and Spatial Exploration


The development of bent ringbots marks a significant advance in the field of soft robotics, which is rapidly gaining attention for its potential in a variety of applications.

As Jie Yin noted in the research, finding new ways to control the movement of soft robots through repeatable, engineering is a crucial step in the evolution of this field.

The physical intelligence inherent in the design of bent ringbots represents a new approach to robotic locomotion and autonomy that can also be applied to other forms of soft robotics.

Looking ahead, the implications of this research extend beyond just technical innovation.

These advances in soft robotics offer new possibilities for spatial exploration, especially in environments that are challenging for traditional rigid robots.

The versatility and durability of soft robots such as bent ringbots make them ideal candidates for a variety of tasks, from environmental monitoring and space exploration to medical procedures and disaster response.

The emergence of twisted ringbots as autonomous exploration vehicles is a testament to the growing capabilities and potential of soft robotics.

As this field continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovative applications that push the boundaries of what is possible in robotics, spatial exploration, and beyond.


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