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Robot Muscles

January 10, 2018

Engineers create animal-inspired muscles for robots.

Transcript

Soft robotic actuators grip and manipulate delicate objects. (Keplinger Lab University of Colorado Boulder)

Soft robotic actuators grip and manipulate delicate objects. (Keplinger Lab University of Colorado Boulder)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Giving robots muscles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Audio from Star Wars: The Force Awakens robot scene]

Like most sci-fi robots, BB-8 in Star Wars is hard and clanky. But engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder are developing robots’ softer side. Separate papers appearing in the journals Science and Science Robotics describe muscle-like actuators made of flexible conductive plastic filled with viscous liquid. Engineer Eric Acome explains.

ERIC ACOME (University of Colorado, Boulder):

It’s really the closest equivalent to natural muscle, we can scale it up for large forces, it operates at high speeds, self-senses its deformation and self-heals.

HIRSHON:

The structures are also versatile enough to pick up ripe raspberries as well gallon jugs of water. The goal is more flexible robot designs, and more sensitive and dexterous prosthetic limbs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon