Self-Repairing Robots

Soft robots with soft surfaces and soft fingers are in vogue. They can touch people, animals, and plants as well as fragile things in such a way that nothing is hurt or destroyed. However, they are vulnerable themselves. One cut, one punch, and they are damaged. According to the Guardian, a European commission-funded project is trying to solve this problem. It aims to create “self-healing” robots “that can feel pain, or sense damage, before swiftly patching themselves up without human intervention”. “The researchers have already successfully developed polymers that can heal themselves by creating new bonds after about 40 minutes. The next step will be to embed sensor fibres in the polymer which can detect where the damage is located. The end goal is to make the healing automated, avoiding the current need for heat to activate the system, through the touch of a human hand.” (Guardian, 8 August 2019) Surely the goal will not be that the robots really suffer. This would have tremendous implications – they would have to be given rights. Rather, it is an imaginary pain – a precondition for the self-repairing process or other reactions.

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