In Japan, researchers have developed a two-legged biohybrid robot using muscle tissues and artificial materials. The robot, featured in the journal Matter, is designed to walk, stop, and make sharp turns like a human.
This creation, led by Shoji Takeuchi of the University of Tokyo, is part of a new field of robotics that combines biology and mechanics. The use of muscle as actuators allows for compact, efficient, and silent movements with a soft touch.
The innovative bipedal design of the robot takes advantage of muscle tissues in order to mimic human gait. It operates in water and has a foam buoy top with weighted legs for stability. The main skeleton of the robot is made from silicone rubber to bend and flex in response to muscle movements, with lab-grown skeletal muscle tissues attached to each leg.
When electrically stimulated, the muscle tissue contracts, lifting the leg up, and subsequently landing forward when the electricity dissipates. By alternating the electric stimulation between the left and right leg, the robot can walk at a speed of 5.4 mm/min (0.002 mph) and make a 90-degree left turn in 62 seconds.
The researchers plan to give the robot joints and thicker muscle tissues to improve its movements. They also hope to integrate electrodes into the robot to increase its speed more efficiently. Moreover, they aim to create a nutrient supply system to sustain the living tissues.
The creation of this biohybrid robot marks a significant advancement in robotics, showcasing the potential for robots to perform complex movements. The work was supported by various organizations, including the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.