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The sweet robot plays the piano thanks to the ‘air-powered’ memory

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Sweet robots they still tend to rely on hard electronics to function, but a new invention could reduce that need for indefatigable chips. UC Riverside researchers have developed pneumatic memory of the computer they used to help a sweet robot play the piano.

Instead of conventional transistors and electrical circuits, “air-fed” memory relies on microfluidic valves that control air flow. Atmospheric pressure in a given valve represents a binary “0”, while a vacuum indicates a “1.” The memory of the researchers has a fairly complex range of these valves to function as an 8-bit RAM chip – not exactly powerful, but good enough that a pair of soft robot hands can play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at a slow pace but steady pace.

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The absence of positive pressure makes this particularly safe – there is no danger of the memory exploding during use.

The technology is far from ready for everyday use. In addition to the necessary improvements in complexity and speed, a robot needs soft versions of processors and other components to completely eliminate the need for rigid electronics. The goal is clear, though. Pneumatic memory could at least reduce the need for chips in sweet robots, and point to a completely flexible robotics event that shouldn’t hurt if there’s a collision.

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