iRobot researchers are developing prototype robots with inflatable parts. The Inflatable Robot Manipulator Arm, developed under the AIR (Advanced Inflatable Robots) initiative weighs less than half of a pound, while the arm of a similar robot weighs 15 pounds. This significant weight savings results in a robot that uses less energy and is easier to carry (an important feature for its potential military applications, like defusing explosives). Inflatable parts also make for a more versatile robot. For example, a robot with a deflated arm can navigate through small spaces and then inflate the arm when it’s in position. And the arm’s capabilities can vary depending on its rigidity, which can be modified with more or less air pressure. The arm becomes the right tool at the right time with no additional parts needed. Finally, a robot equipped with a deflatable arm packs up into less space during transport, saving additional resources.

What other technologies could employ inflatable parts to reduce resource use and improve capabilities?

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