Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

The team is trying and exploring the application of this technology to the biomedical field, such as rehabilitation equipment, surgical tools and customizable prostheses.

 

As the originator of small games, Nintendo’s Super Mario series of games are enduring and can be described as a classic existence that is suitable for all ages and carries childhood memories. When Nintendo launched this game, they might have thought that it would become popular among humans, but they must have never expected that one day, it would even be played by robots.

What the hell is going on?

Recently, a research team from the University of Maryland and its collaborators have used 3D printing technology to make a software robotic hand. It is based on fluid transistor technology. It is not only easy to manufacture and easy to control, but also very flexible, flexible enough to pass Super Mario. Degree.

Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

In the demonstration, the research team designed an integrated fluid circuit. The guidance of the setting program will make it automatically switch between closing pressure and applying low, medium and high pressure, so that the software robot can press the corresponding on the controller. Button. When low pressure is applied, the robot will only press the Nintendo controller with its index finger to make Mario move forward, and high pressure will make Mario jump. Finally, it successfully passed the first level of the Super Mario game in less than 90 seconds!

Relevant research papers appeared on the cover of the scientific journal Science Advance on July 14. It can be regarded as an important innovation in the field of “soft robots”. Currently, the team is trying and exploring the application of this technology in the biomedical field, such as the design of rehabilitation equipment, surgical tools and customizable prostheses.

Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

(Source: Science Advance)

The key to soft robots-control fluid

Compared with traditional rigid robots, soft robots tend to have higher safety and adaptability, which has greatly stimulated people’s research interest in applying them to prostheses and biomedical equipment.

But in fact, to make these soft robots bend or even move, they often need to control the fluid in the surrounding environment. This is very difficult. Scientists have not been able to find a better solution.

In this study, the research team used “fluid transistors” to accurately realize the motion control of the robotic hand. First, the research team designed three transistor structures. These transistors can be regarded as the three “fingers” of a soft robotic hand. Each “finger” is composed of a fluid transistor and a floating disk. hole. The fluid transistor can control the opening and closing of the circuit through the flow of the internal liquid alloy.

Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

Figure | a) internal structure; b) fluid “forward flow” circuit state; c) fluid “reverse flow” circuit state (source: paper)

To put it simply, with the amount of external pressure applied, the fluid inside the fluid transistor will change, thereby controlling the circuit, affecting the displacement of the floating disc, and finally completing the “finger” stretching, contracting and other actions. By integrating the fluid circuit, the research team can not only use fluid to accurately control the bending and movement of the robot hand, but also increase portability and practicality.

Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

In addition, the physical characteristics of the three “fingers” of the soft robotic hand are different. As the external pressure increases, the first finger first begins to move vertically, and the latter two fingers slowly begin to move. This means that only one pressure input is required to complete the scheduling and coordination of three fingers.

 3D printing technology “in one step”

However, the achievements of this research obviously go beyond this.

As co-first author Dr. Ruben Acevedo said: “In fact, in recent years, some teams have also tried to use fluid circuits to enhance the autonomy of soft robots. However, from building these fluid circuits to integrating them with robots, the whole approach The process may take several days to several weeks, which requires more manpower input and a higher level of technology.”

In order to overcome these obstacles, the research team used “PolyJet” 3D printing technology. PolyJet printing is an inkjet (“material jet”)-based process in which multiple materials are distributed in parallel (similar to what we usually use The principle of a color printer) to print out 3D objects line by line and layer by layer.

After the printing is completed, the research team only needs to spend more than ten minutes to manually remove and dissolve the excess materials, and then the final product can be obtained .

Less than 90 seconds to easily play the first level, this 3D printing software robot is actually an advanced player of Super Mario

Just press the “Start” button, and the research team can print out a complete software robot in one day-including all software actuators, fluid circuit components and appearance parts.

Therefore, this 3D printing method can be said to be “one step in place”, which greatly reduces manufacturing difficulty and time consumption.

Why challenge “Super Mario”?

In fact, the research team used the software robot to challenge “Super Mario” not only for fun, but also for scientific considerations.

Because the timing and level composition of Nintendo’s Super Mario game are determined, an error in the middle of the game may cause the entire game to immediately game over. Therefore, playing Super Mario provides a new method for evaluating the performance of soft robots, which is uniquely challenging. After all, before this, no software robot has successfully played this type of game.

Today, the research team has open sourced all scientific research materials and programming, and the GitHub project contains all the electronic design files for the work.

Ryan D. Sochol, the corresponding author of the paper and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, said: “We hope that this open source 3D printing strategy will expand the accessibility, spread, repeatability and application range of soft robots with integrated fluid circuits. This will promote the progress of the entire scientific research field.”

Reference materials:

https://eng.umd.edu/news/story/university-of-maryland-engineers-have-3d-printed-a-soft-robotic-hand-that-can-play-nintendo

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/29/eabe5257

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2021/07/12/7.29.eabe5257.DC1

https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-fluidic-fingers

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