A Tokyo University research team led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi has successfully developed a robot that utilizes real muscles. By attaching laboratory-cultured muscle cells to bones made of plastic, the team ran precise electric currents through the setup to induce contractions.
What resulted was a tiny version of a human arm with antagonistic and agonistic muscles — opposing pairs of muscles that relax or contract — that were able to maintain sufficiently rigid postures and thus lift objects, the first hybrid robot of its kind.
“It’s still in the very early stages, but I think it’s a big first step,” said Shoji. Already setting their sights beyond the horizon, the research team hopes to push its development even further into the production of prosthetic hands. Having durable yet flexible artificial limbs might be great and all, but having natural-looking ones made of real muscle is just as highly desirable.
However, the team must tackle several challenges if they are to have any hope of reaching that goal, such as replicating the extremely intricate muscle composition of human hands, developing a reliable power source to generate electric currents, or dealing with muscle degradation caused by wear and tear.
Sources: TV Asahi, YouTube/ANNnewsCH via Jin
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