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麻省理工和哈佛的人造肌肉可以让机器人获得“超能力”

Jamie Ducharme 2017年12月06日

麻省理工和哈佛大学的研究人员表示,他们正在制造有“超能力”的机器人。

麻省理工计算机科学和人工智能实验室(CSAIL)发布新闻稿称,该实验室和哈佛大学维斯生物启发工程研究所的科学家们在手工折纸的启发下制造出了人造肌肉,其特点之一是可以让机器人举起重量达自身1000倍的物体。

但CSAIL主任丹妮拉·鲁斯指出,其潜能还不止于此。她还说这项工作的基础是她的团队以往的研究。

鲁斯说:“你有可能让机器人跑得更快,可以让它飞起来,在水上行走,翻动或抓取物品,这要取决于你给它配备什么样的外骨骼。”

她解释说,每块肌肉都包含一个可压缩而又坚固的骨骼系统,外面包着一层皮肤。皮肤和骨骼之间以液体填充,液体体积的变化带来压力差,压力差产生张力,从而使肌肉可以在无人干预的情况下运动。这些肌肉只需10分钟就可制造,而且成本不超过1美元。编程后,这些肌肉就可以做多方向运动,并且已经有过不间断伸缩好几天的记录。

鲁斯说:“液体的作用是形成压力差。像折纸一样可压缩的骨骼引导着向外的动作。巨大的力量则源于弹性材料的张力。这有点儿像借助滑轮和杠杆来增大力量。”

这些肌肉的用途相当广泛。研究者成功地用各类材料做出了多个版本,有金属弹簧的,也有塑料泡沫的,尺寸也不一而足。鲁斯认为,这样的灵活性意味着此项发明可用于许多领域,比如医药,比如建筑,再比如空间探索。

她说:“车间里可以使用柔软的机器人,以便人和机器人安全互动。我们还可以用配备了此类外骨骼的柔软机器人来帮助人们做动作。有时候我们可能需要医用吊带,现在这条吊带可以自主运动,而且它真的能带动你的腿、胳膊或者背部肌肉,让你随心所欲的活动。”(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie 

Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering created origami-inspired artificial muscles that, among other feats, allow robots to lift objects 1,000 times heavier than they are, according to a release from CSAIL.

The possibilities don’t stop there, explains CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, adding that the work builds upon past research from her team.

“You could get a robot to move faster, you could get a robot to fly, or to move on water, or to roll or to scoop things, depending on what kind of exoskeleton you attach to the robot,” she says.

Each muscle, Rus explains, is made up of a compressible but solid skeletal system, encased by a bag of “skin.” The space between the skin and the skeleton is filled with fluid, and as the volume of fluid changes, alterations in pressure cause tension, which allows the muscles to move without human input. The muscles — which take just 10 minutes and less than $1 to create — can be programmed to move in multiple directions and have been shown to flex uninterrupted for days at a time.

“The fluid is used to create a pressure difference. The origami compressible skeleton regulates the outward motion. And the strong force produced is due to the tension of the flexible material,” Rus explains. “It’s a little bit like using pulleys and levers to amplify force.”

The muscles are also quite versatile. Researchers successfully built versions using a variety of materials, ranging from metal springs to packing foam, and in a wide array of sizes. That flexibility means the inventions could be used in arenas ranging from medicine to architecture to space exploration, Rus says.

“We can have soft robots on the manufacturing floors for safe human-robot interactions. We could also have soft robots with these kinds of exoskeletons helping people with assisted movements,” Rus says. “Maybe you have a sling, and now the sling is active and really stimulates your legs or your arms or your back muscles to get to where you want to be.”

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