Scientists have recently developed an artificial muscle that will allow a robot to mimic human movements more effectively.
Scientists have managed to create artificial muscle tissue, designed for AI technology, which imitates and functions like a human muscle. The artificial tissue will enable robots to have more graceful movements, and generally be more human-like.
Experts consider this a crucial step in robotic technology before implementing them into society. By making robots more graceful and human-like, people will feel more comfortable and safe when interacting with them on a day-to-day basis. A robot’s mechanical frame also poses a physical danger to humans, as a human can easily injure themselves on a robot’s metal in the workplace. The idea is to cover robots who interact with humans, in soft tissue to make the interaction safe and pleasant.
A team of researchers at Columbia University’s Creative Machines Lab has recently managed to create this soft tissue. The team, led by a postdoctoral researcher, Aslan Miriyev, created an artificial muscle which can push, pull, twist, and respond to heat.
So far experiments have shown that the muscle has the ability to lift 1000 times its own weight. It can also expand 15 times more than human muscle and is up to three times stronger.
This technology is not only meant for robots, however. Artificial muscles can also be used by people with disabilities. The material used is sourced from biocompatible, inexpensive materials which can be embedded in the body, or use as an exoskeleton prosthesis. No other external compressors or equipment will be needed as in previous artificial muscles.
The soft actuator technologies utilize pneumatic or hydraulic inflation in order to expand elastomer skin with either liquid or air. Previous prosthetics that used compressors or pressure-regulating mechanisms, prevented the more sleek, graceful, and closer to human movements that we’ve thus far been missing in robots.
To avoid having to use bulky equipment, scientists have designed a silicone rubber matrix. This is able to expand and contract when ethanol enters or leaves the micro-bubbles that are embedded in the material. To do this, scientists used a low-power 8v resistive wire. When this wire is heated to 80°C, the muscle is enabled to expand up to 900 times its original size, which allows movement.
According to Hod Lipson, most scientists have up until now been focusing on the robotic mind, without much thought as to its physical frame design. Currently, the biggest challenge to scientists is to shape all the soft actuator technologies in the most efficient way that will enable graceful movement.
Moving forward the team plans to improve and optimize their design. This will include replacing the wire with a more conductive material, creating a quicker response time, and making the muscle’s shelf life longer. The muscle will become controlled by machine learning algorithms so that the robot can effectively replicate human movement.