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LEDE: Robots could interact more closely humans, and have a gentler touch, if all their parts could be soft. So researchers are working to give them muscles.
Randy Atkins: As robots become bigger parts of our lives – working near us, attached to us, even inside our bodies – typical motors may not be safe or practical. So Rob Wood, an engineer at Harvard University, is collaborating with MIT to give robots soft artificial muscles using concepts from origami.
Robert Wood: The internal structure of this muscle is basically a piece of folded structure that by nature of whatever the fold pattern is, that’s going to dictate how it moves.
Randy Atkins: Wood says range of motion is practically limitless. The muscles are powered by vacuum pressure from an air pump. And they can be very strong.
Robert Wood: In terms of how much it can displace, how much force it can generate, and then how much energy it can produce per unit weight, then it exceeds human muscle.
Randy Atkins: Wood says another benefit is its low cost, making it potentially useful to students learning about robotics. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.