Current technology such as implantable batteries are opening doors for enhancing the human body. On the other end of the spectrum, engineers are working on artificial intelligences capable of honing skills humans aren’t. To practice building more human-like robots, scientists at Harvard and MIT created a soft muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight.
The simple objects are constructed out of metal or plastic “skeletons” that are covered in either a liquid or air, and then sealed in plastic or fabric “skins.” The muscle pulls taught when a vacuum is created inside the skin, and goes slack when the vacuum is released.
The invention, inspired by traditional Japanese origami, are highly durable and easy to make. In fact, developers claim it takes only 10 minutes and less than a dollar to produce a single muscle. The secret to their resilience lies in a simple concept: folding and pressure.
“Vacuum-based muscles have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don’t expand when they’re operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body,” [said] Daniel Vogt, a research engineer at the Wyss Institute.
Looks like muscular robots may be a lot less squishy that we pictured.