These Soft Robots Mimic Muscles And Can Help With Physical Therapy

Ahmed Bilal
Posted Oct 12, 2016
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Whenever the word robotic exoskeleton comes to mind the first thing you think of is super cool warfare. While that may be the first thing that comes to many minds, a robotic exoskeleton may be more useful than we think. Soft robotics and artificial muscles created by Swiss researchers are really suitable for very delicate operations as well and could help with physical therapy.

There are many useful applications for technology like this

At the research university Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne a reconfigurable robotics lab is working with on this technology. They are focusing on a tubular muscle that is made of elastic materials and its motion can be tightly controlled. They can even stretch and bend when they are activated by air pumps, though they are currently too small to wear, we will get there in some time.

soft robotics

At first sight they look like really weird little worms but the researchers have bundled these actuators. After packing them into bundles they are analogous to our very own human muscles. The team could use these soft robotic muscles to create super strong workers, but knowing Swiss people, they’re taking the humanitarian path.

“We are working with physical therapists from the University Hospital of Lausanne who are treating stroke victims,” said EPFL’s Matthew Robertson in a university news release. Several of the robotic muscles are arranged on a belt and stretch up the lower back. “The belt is designed to support the patient’s torso and restore some of the person’s motor sensitivity.”

The combination of rigid electronics with soft passive assistance makes these soft robotic muscles powerful enough to help anyone who needs the extra help and you really don’t need to worry about being injured by the tech. There are plenty of other useful applications that this tech can have, apart from help with physical therapy.

The Swiss research team published their work in Nature Scientific Reports and has made the hardware design and software tools open source.

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