Soft Robotics
While robots are traditionally designed to be as rigid as possible so that they can be easily modeled and precisely controlled, nature suggests an alternative approach. Plants and animals exhibit a large range of rigidity, but most are much softer than engineering materials such as steel or injection-molded plastics. Not only does nature tolerate this softness but it embraces it, achieving feats of adaptability and agility unrivaled in engineered systems. The field of Soft Robotics seeks to draw inspiration from natural systems such as cephalopods, to develop a new breed of robots that is more adaptable to unknown environments and safe to work with. The Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab seeks to develop untethered soft robots with integrated power and control systems. The following video describes a resilient, untethered soft robot developed by Prof. Tolley and collaborators during his Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University:

Fabrication by Folding
Nature frequently employs folding for fabrication. From very small scales where proteins are folded from linear strings of amino acids, to larger scales where organs are folded from sheets of cells and plant leaves and insect wings deploy by folding or unfolding. The ancient Japanese art of origami also uses folding to form three dimensional structures from sheets of material. Inspired by these examples, we seek to develop new approaches to the fabrication of engineered structures and robotic systems, employing folding for assembly or deployment. The following video describes previous work which demonstrates a walking robot fabricated as a flat sheet that deploys itself by folding and is able to immediately begin operation: