Photo of Laura Blumenschein

Artificial intelligence & robotics

Laura Blumenschein

The Vine robot moves and grows like a plant.

Year Honored

Purdue University


Hails From

Robots aren’t generally known for their flexibility, with some exceptions. Laura Blumenschein, 29, co-­invented the Vine robot, which moves and grows like a plant. Shaped like a tube, the soft robot uses air pressure to maneuver around and gets longer as material fed through its center comes out the other end. “Think of a flexible blade of grass strong enough to push itself through cracks in concrete sidewalks, but compliant enough to be bent in the wind,” she says. Possible applications, says Blumenschein, include flexible intravenous catheters that allow for safer surgeries, shape-changing antennas for avoiding interference, and archaeological tools for exploring tight tunnels and ruins.