Japanese researchers have unveiled a groundbreaking biohybrid robot that emulates the flexibility and efficiency of human movement. Drawing inspiration from the intricate mechanics of human gait, scientists from the University of Tokyo have successfully crafted a two-legged robot by combining muscle tissues with artificial materials. This revolutionary approach not only allows the robot to walk and pivot but also opens the door to a new era of robotic technology.
Unlike traditional robots, which lack the flexibility and finesse of human bodies, this innovative biohybrid robot mimics human gait and boasts unrivaled maneuverability. The scientists designed the robot with a foam buoy top and weighted legs, enabling it to stand upright underwater. The skeleton of the robot is primarily composed of silicone rubber, a highly flexible material that can adapt to muscle movements.
To bring the robot to life, strips of lab-grown skeletal muscle tissues were attached to the silicone rubber, providing the necessary actuation. By applying controlled electrical stimulation to the muscle tissue, the researchers successfully replicated the contraction and relaxation required for walking. The robot's legs lifted and moved forward in a manner akin to our own movements.
Remarkably, the biohybrid robot achieved a walking speed of 5.4 mm/min (0.002 mph) by alternating electric stimulation between the left and right leg every 5 seconds. To demonstrate its agility, the robot made a precise 90-degree left turn in just 62 seconds. These findings indicate that the muscle-driven bipedal robot can walk, stop, and execute fine-tuned turning motions with remarkable accuracy.
The research, published in the prestigious journal Matter, highlights the growing field of biohybrid robots, which seamlessly merge biology and mechanics. "Using muscle as actuators allows us to build a compact robot and achieve efficient, silent movements with a soft touch," explains corresponding author Shoji Takeuchi.
The success of this groundbreaking endeavor has ignited excitement among the researchers. "A cheer broke out during our regular lab meeting when we saw the robot successfully walk on the video," reveals Takeuchi. These seemingly small steps represent monumental leaps forward for biohybrid robots.