AI News, Artificial muscles give soft robots superpowers

Artificial muscles give soft robots superpowers

Now, researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created origami-inspired artificial muscles that add strength to soft robots, allowing them to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their own weight using only air or water pressure.

Each artificial muscle consists of an inner 'skeleton' that can be made of various materials, such as a metal coil or a sheet of plastic folded into a certain pattern, surrounded by air or fluid and sealed inside a plastic or textile bag that serves as the 'skin.'

The team constructed dozens of muscles using materials ranging from metal springs to packing foam to sheets of plastic, and experimented with different skeleton shapes to create muscles that can contract down to 10% of their original size, lift a delicate flower off the ground, and twist into a coil, all simply by sucking the air out of them.

This feature means that the muscles can be used in numerous applications at multiple scales, such as miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, transformable architecture, deep-sea manipulators for research or construction, and large deployable structures for space exploration.

The team was even able to construct the muscles out of the water-soluble polymer PVA, which opens the possibility of robots that can perform tasks in natural settings with minimal environmental impact, as well as ingestible robots that move to the proper place in the body and then dissolve to release a drug.

'The actuators developed through this collaboration between the Wood laboratory at Harvard and Rus group at MIT exemplify the Wyss' approach of taking inspiration from nature without being limited by its conventions, which can result in systems that not only imitate nature, but surpass it,' says the Wyss Institute's Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at HMS and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.

Artificial muscles cheap: give soft robots a lifting power

The artificial muscles have been developed by a team from Wyss Institute at Harvard University and MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence ...

Wearable Robots to Help Lift Heavy Weight

MIT researchers are working to create “soft,” wearable robots. Robotics researcher Shuguang Li and his team develop the material for a new breed of robot ...

Vytas SunSpiral - SUPERball: A Biologically Inspired Robot for Planetary Exploration

NASA Ames 2016 Summer Series. Nature is a major source of inspiration for robotics and aerospace engineering, giving rise to biologically inspired structures.

Vytas SunSpiral: Refactoring Space Exploration with Soft Machines

Google Tech Talk November 12, 2013 (more info below) Presented by Vytas SunSpiral, NASA Ames Research ABSTRACT To understand how we control ...