MIT and Harvard create soft robot muscles that can lift 1,000x its weight

Scientists from MIT and Harvard have been working in the field of soft robotics in an attempt to fix new of the major shortcomings of the genre, the lack of strength. These soft robots are typically too weak to allow much in the way of functionality, but that may be changing with a new breakthrough from scientists from MIT CSAIL and the Harvard Wyss Institute.

The scientists have devised a new way to outfit the soft robots with more strength and this is accomplished by fitting the soft robots with rigid origami skeletons. Each of the soft robot muscles the scientists have created has a sealed bag filled with air or fluid and have a folding origami structure inside. That origami structure functions as a skeleton.

To make the muscle contract, the pressure inside the bag is reduced, and the artificial muscle contracts just as the muscles in a human body do. The new technique allows the artificial muscles to lift 1,000 times their own weight.

Soft robotics are a big deal and have multiple potential usage scenarios, particularly in warehouses and logistics operations where they are able to handle fragile objects. Soft robotics are also useful in picking up objects with an irregular shape.

Soft robots can grasp irregular shaped objects much like a human hand is by simply conforming to the shape of the object. The scientists say that they can program these soft robots to carry out complex motions, including twisting actions. The soft robots fold based on their structure needing no complex electronic control systems to do so.

SOURCE: The Verge