FlowIO Platform

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FlowIO is the world’s first fully integrated, miniature pneumatic development platform for actuation, sensing, and control of soft robotics and programmable materials. FlowIO was developed at MIT and deployed globally to democratize programmable matter; to make prototyping, innovation, and research with soft robotics incredibly quick and easy; and to enable researchers, designers, and makers of all backgrounds to unleash their creativity and bring their ideas to life. FlowIO is to soft robotics what Arduino is to electronics.

FlowIO has 5 programmable pneumatic ports where each port supports the actions of Inflation, Vacuum, Release, Pressure Hold, Pressure sensing, and flow-rate variability. The platform is fully modular with magnetically-connected modules, allowing users to reconfigure FlowIO on-the-fly within seconds to satisfy different pressure and flow-rate needs. The included modules can deliver pressure up to 30psi, and higher pressures up to 87psi are also possible. FlowIO’s modules are fully self-contained and require no external pressure or power sources. FlowIO also features Bluetooth capabilities, integrated battery chargers, and over a dozen different sensors. Users can expand the capabilities of FlowIO with expansion modules or connect other devices to it via the 14pin GPIO expansion port or via Bluetooth. Up to 6 FlowIO devices can also be connected together and used synchronously in case a user needs more than 5 pneumatic ports.

FlowIO features a graphical user interface and can be controlled directly from a user’s web browser via Bluetooth - without requiring any downloads or installations. The Web-based graphical interface enables users to wirelessly control FlowIO from any operating system and any Bluetooth device, including computers, phones, and tablets. Under the hood, FlowIO comes with a complete software stack, which includes libraries and APIs for both Arduino and JavaScript, while support for Python is currently under development.

To date, more than 50 people in over 10 counties have used FlowIO in applications related to shape-changing interfaces, haptics, wellness, assistive technology, robotic locomotion, and interactive art. And FlowIO has been featured in multiple research papers and theses around the world. FlowIO is distributed under a novel deployment model we call “Creative Commons Hardware”, where the hardware devices are loaned free of charge to users who can do great things with them and who are willing to make any contributions that would help the project grow, evolve, or enable more people to use it.

SoftRobotics.IO is the community website for FlowIO featuring documentation, dozens of user projects, details about the deployment model, a project proposal form to request FlowIO, and numerous resources related to soft robotics. SoftRobotics.IO is also the world’s first online community platform for the soft robotics community, which currently has over 500 registered members. It is a place where members can ask questions on the forums; write blogs to share projects and ideas; create special-interest groups, and find collaborators. The long-term goal of SoftRobotics.IO is to become the go-to place for anything having to do with soft robotics, similar to what StackOverflow.com is for programming or what Adafruit.com is for electronics.


  • Awards

  • 2021 Grand Prize Winner


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  • Name:
    Ali Shtarbanov
  • Type of entry:
    Team members:
    Ali Shtarbanov
    Ozgun Afsar
    Hye Jun Youn
    Prof. Joseph Paradiso
  • Profession:
  • Ali is inspired by:
    What brings me the most fulfillment is enabling individuals to realize their creative project ideas. While talent is everywhere, opportunity is not! Only a tiny fraction of the world has the opportunity to pursue their creative ideas, because of barriers such as financial, educational, technological, and most importantly - time. Consider for a moment the talent that gets wasted because of these barriers. How much more advanced would we be today as a society in terms of science, technology, and medicine if we weren’t wasting so much talent?
    That is why my overarching mission is to make innovation and prototyping in emerging fields
    (a) faster & (b) more accessible...through the (1) design and (2) deployment of new tools and development platforms that are highly versatile, general-purpose, and simple to use.
  • Patent status: