Here on earth, soft robotics have different applications, especially in the growing market of industrial robotics. Sales and installations of industrial robots have grown 29% between 2013-14, topping $32 billion, with Asia driving the growth, according to ABI Research.
For better or worse, robots are increasingly taking over warehousing responsibilities, with some warehouses operating completely in the dark without turning on the lights. Where soft robotics comes into play is in moving soft and irregularly shaped products, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, itself a $27 billion dollar market.
Currently the human hand is the best engineered item for this purpose. The human hand is soft yet has strength and can sense and adjust the amount of necessary pressure. In this way, we can safely move thousands of produce without damaging the appearance in a grocery store aisle.
However, human hands are expensive and in the United States farms have suffered a $9 billion loss due to labor shortages.
Several companies such as Soft Robotics based in Cambridge, Massachusetts are creating soft robots that won’t pulverize produce in transit, a valuable application for the warehouse industry.