Robots have become one step closer to being more human-like. Researchers have developed actuators that generate movements similar to those of a bicep muscle and are also shock absorbent. This innovated technology uses vacuum power to automate soft, rubber beams, which could one-day allow robots and humans to safely work alongside each other. Researchers have developed actuators for cyborgs that generates movements similar to those of skeletal muscles and are even shock absorbing. Similar to human muscles, actuators are soft, shock absorbing and are not harmful to the robots environment or the humans in it.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST, have developed an ultra-thin actuator for soft robotics. The artificial muscles, recently reported in the journal Science Robotics, were demonstrated with a robotic blooming flower brooch, dancing robotic butterflies, and fluttering tree leaves on a kinetic art piece. Actuators are the robotic equivalents of muscles, expanding, contracting, or rotating like muscle fibers in response to a stimulus such as electricity. Engineers around the world are striving to develop more dynamic actuators that respond quickly, can bend without breaking, and are very durable. Soft robotic muscles could have a wide variety of applications, from wearable electronics to advanced prosthetics.
The sight of a RoboBee careening towards a wall or crashing into a glass box may have once triggered panic in the researchers in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), but no more. Researchers at SEAS and Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a resilient RoboBee powered by soft artificial muscles that can crash into walls, fall onto the floor, and collide with other RoboBees without being damaged. It is the first microrobot powered by soft actuators to achieve controlled flight. "There has been a big push in the field of microrobotics to make mobile robots out of soft actuators because they are so resilient," said Yufeng Chen, Ph.D., a former graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper. "However, many people in the field have been skeptical that they could be used for flying robots because the power density of those actuators simply hasn't been high enough and they are notoriously difficult to control. Our actuator has high enough power density and controllability to achieve hovering flight."
The Octobot is fabricated by combining soft lithography, molding, and 3D printing. In a laboratory at Yale University, a soft toy horse with prosthetic coverings around its foam-stuffed legs has taken its first tentative steps. Despite its stiff and not entirely coordinated gait, the toy demonstration may point the way toward helping space agencies put lighter, more versatile robots into space. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, assistant professor at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science, says she was wrestling with the problem of how to allow robots to handle a wider variety of jobs than current approaches, which often focus on performing a single function well, when the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a request for novel robot designs based on lighter, plastic approaches. Rather than attempt to lift many single-task robots into orbit, the space agency wants a single reconfigurable machine to be able to handle different tasks and, occasionally, to act as prosthetics for human astronauts.
A group of scientists have created a resilient RoboBee, that can survive crashing into walls and other robots without being damaged. The invention marks the first microrobot powered by soft artificial muscles that has achieved a controlled flight. Researchers in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) developed a resilient artificial bee powered by soft actuators. Often these soft components have been dismissed as too difficult to control as their flexibility can lead to the system buckling at weak points if pushed to activate movements at speed. Yufeng Chen, a former graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper, said: 'There has been a big push in the field of microrobotics to make mobile robots out of soft actuators because they are so resilient.'