Robots That Show Their Softer Side

Pliable automatons are breaking out of the laboratory
Pneubotics’ arm has no rigid components and is powered by air pumped into its simulated musculature Courtesy Pneubotics

Inside a former organ factory in San Francisco, Della Shea is building a robot with a sewing machine. She works for Pneubotics, one of a growing number of startups designing softer automatons capable of flexible movements—and, perhaps, daily interaction with humans. “Right now our process looks more like tailoring than engineering,” says Pneubotics co-founder Saul Griffith, pointing to the thick vinyl material on the sewing machine operated by Shea, whose official title is “sewboticist.”

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