At the first mention of the word robot, the image that comes to our minds is that of the humanoid robots either from Science-fiction movies or the real ones from Honda and Sony. Be it R2-D2 from the Star Wars franchise or ASIMO from Honda, traditionally, robots are either imagined to be or actually made up of rigid links, motors, gears, sensors and other bulky metallic components. Industrial robots have been the success story for the field of robotics, where these robots work alongside humans. Robots are highly accurate and precise machines capable of working autonomously. While hard automation has been extremely useful and has amazed people with its fast development, there are certain limitations with hard robots, especially anthropomorphic ones. It is quite challenging for the stiff components to imitate the fluid and dexterous motions of human muscles. Furthermore, their bulky nature makes the balancing of these hard robots challenging, while walking, running or standing, and makes them less attractive for field explorations and other niche applications.
An emerging field of robotics, which promises to provide a solution for these problems, is soft robotics. Soft robotics make use of intrinsically soft components, which lends them the advantage of being exceptionally lightweight, capable of executing extremely delicate motions in a fluid fashion and fabricated at much lower cost when compared to their hard counterparts. Actuation in soft robots can be achieved through several means such as pneumatics, fluidics and electrical stimulus. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) is a configuration of electroactive polymers which provides large actuation strains by application of electric field. We make use of DEAs to achieve actuation for our soft robot.