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Scientists Create Origami-Like Artificial Muscle Can Lift 1,000 Times Its Own Weight.

Since humanity is apparently gung-ho about bringing forth its own destruction, we are making rapid advancements in robotics technology. Just last month, a robot that once claimed it wanted to destroy humans (http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-first-robot-citizen-sophia-animatronic-humanoid-2017-10/#hanson-himself-however-believes-that-future-is-much-more-immediate-the-age-of-living-androids-is-among-us-he-told-business-insider-10) was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia. We are living in a science fiction novel.

On a more sincere note, this latest development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard scientists is incredibly cool. Reported by the (http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-artificial-muscles-origami-20171127-htmlstory.html) Los Angeles Times , they have engineered a type of artificial muscle that can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight. The twist here is the origami-esque muscle arrangement allows a level of delicacy and flexibility that harder materials would prohibit.

You can read the full scientific report at the (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/11/21/1713450114.full) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , but the idea is pretty simple. We typically think of robots as being made out of hard materials like metal, but softer parts are necessary for plenty of reasons. As the Los Angeles Times points out, getting into hard-to-reach places or shaking hands are not easy with stubborn materials like metal.

The problem is those hard materials were previously necessary to produce the kind of brute strength engineers were looking for. In response, the team from MIT and Harvard was inspired by the paper-folding craft of origami to create artificial muscles that can bend, fold and squeeze while providing plenty of heft for a variety of purposes.

"These artificial muscles can be programed to produce not only a single contraction but also complex multiaxial actuation, and even controllable motion with multiple degrees of freedom," the original report said. "Moreover, a wide variety of materials and fabrication processes can be used to build the artificial muscles with other functions beyond basic actuation."

Basically, by using this new folding technique, robots could perform a bunch of useful tasks at many different scales. It could obviously be used for heavy lifting like robots are now, but in theory, its ability to scale down and be more delicate with its payload means it could be used inside a human body. As long as you trust a robot that much, anyway.

Another fun possibility floated by the Los Angeles Times report is a wearable power suit that would use the flexible artificial muscles to enhance a human wearer's strength. That sounds significantly more comfortable than (http://ibtimes.com/us-army-testing-soldier-enhancing-exoskeleton-improve-battlefield-energy-2619790) this military rig the United States army is testing courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Again, the most important part of this development is that the tech is theoretically powerful enough to be useful in everyday robotic applications while not immediately crushing anything remotely fragile it comes in contact with. Perhaps this is just the first step on the road to robots raising our babies, walking our dogs or even microscopic nanomachines enhancing us from the inside. Hopefully the utopian possibilities of this technology outweigh the apocalyptic potential.
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Nov 28, 2017
Words:502
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