Japanese researchers have succeeded in creating a small bipedal robot that walks using living muscles made from rat cells. Although very slow and very basic, it is the first step towards creating much more complex robots.
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It’s a small step for a robot, and perhaps a big step for robotics. Researchers from the university of Tokyo in Japan have created a biohybrid biped robot, in other words one equipped with living muscles. This is not the first biohybrid robot, but it is the very first to be able to pivot on one foot. The previous ones could only walk in a straight line or turn very slowly.
In an article published in the journal Matterthe researchers detail how they created this robot’s muscles from rat cells, which they then combined with legs made of a substratesubstrate flexible, 3D printed feet and a float. The robot only moves underwater, because water helps keep muscle tissue hydrated. In this very simple form they dehydrate much too quickly whenairair free. Additionally, this allows the use of a float to keep it upright and simplify the system.
Electrodes immersed in water stimulate muscles made from rat cells to make this little hybrid robot walk. © University of Tokyo, New Scientist
The first step towards human walking
The legs receive a stimulationstimulation electric thanks to electrodeselectrodes held manually, contracting the muscle tissue. By alternating the stimulated leg, they manage to make the robot walk at a vitessevitesse of 5.4 millimeters per minute.
Although basic, this small robot allows researchers to consider creating more complex robots in the future. “ We are working on the design of robots equipped witharticulationsarticulations and additional muscle tissue to achieve more sophisticated walking abilities “, said Professor Shoji Takeuchi, one of the authors of the article. The researchers hope that this will ultimately allow them to understand and imitate human walking.
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