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Biohybrid Robotics USArmy Adds Muscle Tissue To Robots

The Army Research Laboratory is teaming up with collaborators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina on a new field called biohybrid robotics. Biohybrid robotics integrates living organisms to mechanical systems to improve performance.

“Though impressive in their own right, today’s robots are deployed to serve a limited purpose then are retrieved some minutes later,” said Dr. Dean Culver, a research scientist at the laboratory. “ARL wants robots to be versatile teammates capable of going anywhere Soldiers can and more, adapting to the needs of any given situation.”

“Organisms outperform engineered robots in so many ways. Why not use biological components to achieve those remarkable capabilities?” Culver asked rhetorically. The team’s proposal involves the behavior of the proteins that drive muscle performance, he said...

“Muscle tissue is outstanding at producing a specific amount of mechanical power at a given moment, and its versatility is unrivaled in robotic actuation today,” he said.

Science fiction author Jack Vance went whole hog with robotic systems that used muscle in his 1967 novel The Last Castle; he called them power-wagons:

Power-wagons, like the Meks, originally swamp-creatures from Etamin 9, were great rectangular slabs of muscle, slung into a rectangular frame and protected from sunlight, insects and rodents by a synthetic pelt. Syrup sacs communicated with their digestive apparatus, wires led to motor nodes in the rudimentary brain. The muscles were clamped to rocker arms which actuated rotors and drive wheels. The power-wagons, economical, long-lived, and docile, were principally used for heavy cartage, earth-moving, heavy tillage and other arduous jobs.
(Read more about Jack Vance's power-wagons)

From Army strengthens future tech with muscle-bound robots.

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