AI News, A Cyborg Stingray Made of Rat Muscles and Gold
- On Wednesday, February 7, 2018
- By Read More
A Cyborg Stingray Made of Rat Muscles and Gold
Or heck, why stop with bioinspiration when you can instead hijack animals directly by wiring up a cybernetic beetle?These approaches are useful in certain situations, but ideally, you’d want to be able to leverage all of actual animal magic that you get with cybernetics and work it into the kind of bioinspired robots that you can design to do exactly what you want.
On the left of the picture above, you can see the tiny robotic skate, and if you’d prefer not to squint, here’s a pic of just the robot: The robot consists of a cast elastomer body with a skeleton of gold, along with a single layer of carefully aligned muscle fibers harvested from neonatal rat hearts.
While this little guy looks kind of fragile, it’s actually able to keep on flapping away at up to 80 percent efficiency for as long as six days after, uh, birth, as long as you keep it fed and watered (literally).
What particularly struck me reading the paper is that the researchers refer to what they created as an “adaptive swimming animal.” They also call it a “tissue-engineered robot,” which seems more accurate, but maybe that’s just because it’s so weird to think of this thing as even a little bit alive, even if does incorporate living cells.
The paper suggests that this robot “paves the way for the development of autonomous and adaptive artificial creatures,” and it’s intriguing to think about where we might be able to go from here: perhaps the future will be full of robots that harness biology to make hybrid animalsthat are far more capable than pure mechanical or biological systems would be on their own.
Meet robo-ray: Tiny mutant stingray that is part-machine, part-RAT can swim gracefully through water
Inspired by this design, robotics expert Sung-Jin Park and his team built a tiny, soft tissue robot measuring just 0.6 inches (16 millimetres) long and weighing just 0.4 ounces (10 grams), with similar qualities and efficiency.
Because stimulating the fins to turn in an upward motion would require a second layer of cardiomyocytes, the researchers instead designed the gold skeleton in a shape that stores some downward energy, which is later released as the cells relax, allowing the fins to rise.
Researcher Kevin Kit Parker told MailOnline: ‘The idea is to get a better insight into the human heart and heart disease by reverse engineering other forms of muscular pumps that we see in nature.’ However, he said the project has also helped marine biologists understand how the stingray is built and robotics engineers see how to use cells as a living engineering material, which could lead to further exciting innovations.
‘When my daughter was little I used to point a laser pointer at the ground and she would try to stomp on it. 'We would go for a walk down the street and I could lead her along the sidewalk safely but just pointing a laser pointer at the ground.
A robotic stingray, powered by light-activated rat cells
The work exhibits a new method for building bio-inspired robots by means of tissue engineering.
Since stimulating the fins to turn in an upward motion would require a second layer of cardiomyocytes, the researchers instead designed the gold skeleton in a shape that stores some downward energy, which is later released as the cells relax, allowing the fins to rise.
Asymmetrical pulses of light can be used to turn the robot to the left or right, the researchers showed, and different frequencies of light can be used to control its speed, as demonstrated in a series of videos.