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The future of robots with muscles


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7 replies to this topic

#1
starspawn0

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I've been thinking about robots lately, while also thinking about my weightlifting / bodybuilding. I was wondering exactly how my muscles work -- which muscles map to which actions, and the precise mechanism behind it. I found this video helpful:

YouTube Video

I didn't realize that arm muscles are attached to bone in exactly the way they show in that video; but I guess it makes sense. Anyways, it doesn't seem like there is anything too complicated that muscles do -- basically, you just need a material that can contract on demand, and with great speed and force, in order to imitate the fluidity and power of human body movements.

So why don't we have robots that can do it? Why did we have to rely on motors and wires?

The answer appears to be that, although the kinds of motions you need aren't all that complicated, the materials needed to pull it off didn't exist until fairly recently:

YouTube Video

Perhaps similar demos can be found from several years ago? The devil is in the details:

* The muscle needs to work over many millions of motions without breaking down.

* It needs to be strong and energy efficient.

* It needs to act very quickly (some previous artificial muscles people have tried were much slower than human muscles).

* The motion needs to be precise and repeatable (always the same, given amount of energy applied).

* It needs to be cheap and easy to manufacture.

If all of these can be nailed down -- and it appears this next generation of artificial muscles does so -- then we could soon have robots made without the need of motors, wires, actuators, etc. This will make them a lot lighter; and if we had the software brain to drive those muscles, then the robots could move around in very human-like ways for hours on a single charge.

Imagine a home robot that, instead of looking like a clunky droid, looks like a human with a soft cloth body (perhaps with some filler to weigh it down a little, to give it bulk and ability to store up momentum). Maybe the cloth could even be lined with sensors, to give it something like a sense of touch.

It's hard to answer the question of "when?". There's a lot of momentum behind the current paradigms, and it will take a long time to replace them completely. Some day, though, robots will make humanity jealous at their agility and strength...
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#2
funkervogt

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Also imagine it with internal channels for micromachines and nanomachines to travel through to repair damaged parts of its body. Sounds like it might converge on something like the androids from Alien. 


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#3
starspawn0

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Both of those are things also occurred to me.

Self-repair of the muscles may not be necessary if they work over millions of repeat trials. But the body may need fixing, on occasion. The exterior of the robot might have gunk build up over time (food, dust, etc.). This can maybe be cleaned by having the robot take a shower or bath; it shouldn't be difficult to make it water-tight. Touch sensors may be easy to replace -- in fact, there is no need to have them wired to the body, which should make it a lot easier replace them, if need be; they could communicate wirelessly with the robot brain, using ultra-low-power bluetooth or similar technology.

Alternatively, the cloth body itself might suffice to communicate touch sensations. The fabric could be made slightly conductive, and could be designed so that resistance increases slightly in regions where the cloth is compressed. With just a few leads / connections applied to the cloth, the location of the compression could be determined -- sort of like how you can triangulate an object in space based on its distance from a few fixed points. If you have, say, 100 of these leads, you could still accurately locate the site of compression on the body if even 50% of them stop working.

As to the Aliens comparison: an android like that could probably be built. Maybe the skin could be rubber, instead of cloth, making it look even more human-like. The innards of those robots appeared to work on hydraulic principles; though, the sounds they made when damaged suggested they had motors inside. The kind of robots that would be built with artificial muscles like in the above video would be dry, and would not need hydraulic tubes. I suppose, though, it might make sense to fill the insides of the robot with some kind of liquid battery, like the one described here:

http://news.mit.edu/...ten-metals-0112

This would also serve to give the robot bulk, as I suggested in the posting above.
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#4
funkervogt

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Yes, I think the best option would be to design the robots to have detachable limbs. If one gets too messed up, just replace it. Ideally, the robots would be able to do this to their own bodies, without help. 



#5
Kynareth

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I think that superior androids will make humans want to upgrade themselves to stay relevant and not be weaker than the humanoid robots.


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#6
Yuli Ban

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^ Some humans, absolutely. A good number of others won't bother or will have reservations against it. 


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#7
Kynareth

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For sure it won't be 100% of humans and I have no idea what exact % will want to upgrade. 10%? 30%? 60%? 90%? Dunno but at least 10% will. Of course, aside from willing, there is unfortunately this thing called financial capability of can or cannot. Naturally, with time, people are going to get richer and technologies are going to drop in price, like it has been happening for the last few centuries so like I wrote, at least 10% will surely be able to upgrade themselves before this century ends.

 

I remember how in 2004, having a Roomba vacuuming robot was my wish but its price was too high at that time. Now I have a such robot (from a different manufacturer) and I treat it as just another home appliance.



#8
Alislaws

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In the future, drone racing will include awesome Parkour events!

 

E-Sports will take on a whole new meaning!

 

Also you can have robots controlled by retired sports stars, ideally by BCI so you can see how former world champions match up to today's competitors. (Ideally you set up the robot to be equal to the user at their peak, but you could have fun with making them as fast and strong as possible)

 

-----

 

This muscle thing has always annoyed me because If we can get human performance from artificial muscles we can:

 

Build a human skeleton (we know what those look like!) 

Attach muscles in all the places humans have muscles (including face etc, don't be lazy!),

stick batteries etc. in the torso,

stick computers in the torso/brain (or a wifi aerial)

Stick mobile phone cameras in the eyes

Stick microphones in the ears

Add a spirit level somewhere in its head for inner ear/balance help. 

add a combination of touch and heat sensors to the skin.

stick sensors in to give that whole sense of where your body is thing. 

Potentially stick some sort of chemical detector in the nose/mouth so it can sort of smell/taste?

 

Once done, then produce one for every university and AI company In the world send them out! They'd be useless at first but you'd have working androids within a year or two I think. 






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