One way in which robots will become more commonplace in our homes and working environments is by making them cheaper than today's. One of the most expensive components in a robot are actuators such as arms, which require often costly, complicated, and power-hungry designs.
Annan Mozeika, Principal Robotics Engineer at iRobot Corporation, is leading his company's research efforts in inflatable robotics.
His project, funded by DARPA, features a PackBot modified with an inflatable arm. The robot, called the Advanced Inflatable Robot, or AIR, has an inflatable arm able to lift four times its own weight while while grabbing and clamping onto objects such as bottles. Annan's work is still an early stage effort, but it is not difficult to see how more inflatable robots can provide a cost and safety boost for many applications domains. See video below for a demonstration.