Electrical engineer Robert Wood leads a team at Harvard University that invents and develops entirely new classes of microrobots poised to play a transformative role in medicine, search-and-rescue missions, and agriculture.
Electrical engineer Robert Wood is an expert in robots that fly, robots you wear, squishy robots, and tiny robots the size of a nickel. He founded the Microrobotics Lab at Harvard University, where he leads a team that invents and develops entirely new classes of microrobots and robots made of soft materials that may one day play a transformative role in medicine, search-and-rescue missions, and agriculture. For years, the team has focused on creating autonomous flying microrobots called RoboBees that could be sent on missions deemed too dangerous, remote, or tedious for humans or animals. The machines have a housefly-size thorax, three-centimeter wingspan, and a weight of 60 milligrams. The latest prototype flaps wings 120 times a second, hovers, and flies along preordained paths. In the field of soft robotics, the lab invents new materials and embodies them with electrical or mechanical functionality so that they can safely interact with humans. For example, his team has created sensors and actuators for applications in rehabilitation and human-robot interactions that are as soft as skin.