Harvard and MIT flex their muscles

Inspired by the forms and functions of origami, researchers from Harvard University and MIT have created robotic artificial muscles that can lift objects 1,000 times their own weight.

The synthetic muscles are soft and thus much safer compared to traditional metal robots in environments where they could inflict damage on humans or fragile objects. The greatest positive is that these actuators can be made of exceptionally low-cost recyclable materials such as plastic bags.

The muscles are so powerful that Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, says their structure intensifies force much like a pulley or a lever. As the origami configuration inside contracts, the outer plastic skin pulls in to convert “the fluid pressure to a large tension force on the skin”.

Read more: WIRED / NPR / TechCrunch / Independent / MIT Tech Review / Wyss Institute Harvard

Image: Shuguang Li/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – Robot arm

This story is taken from the 01 December 2017 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.