It's really pretty incredible what's percolating in the research labs when it comes to robotics, particularly in the area of biomechanics. I could see huge applications for this technology as part of the advances already happening on the prosthetics front. Having a prosthetic leg that can replicate some natural human movements would be a reall boon for patients looking to get back into their active lifestyles. Amazing stuff.
I agree Beth - I just watched the video and it was amazing how the material contracted under the light stimulus. The whole concept reminds me of "Data" from Star Trek The Next Generation - it looks like the beginnings of androids and prosthetics would be such a wonderful application. It amazes me how much the futuristic vision of Star Trek is being played out today. I wonder if there are any bioethical issues that willl be raised from this type of engineering...
I agree pretty incredible. Ann, any idea when MIT and U of PA plan to have the first working model of their genetically engineered robot? Are there plans on using the engineered skeletal muscles in humans?
Rob, you're asking the same excellent question Jack asked regarding the engineered tissue in the Medusoid. As I responded to him, I think the answer lies more in the realm of biotech than robotics, at least for now. Does anyone else know?
Here's an icky answer for how genetically engineered tissue is kept alive. First, just from being a sci-fi fan I knew the tissue had to be grown and preserved in some kind of artificial, nutrient-rich medium. This article on creating artificial meat (hence the "ick" factor) has some answers on how that's done: http://suite101.com/article/lab-grown-hamburgers-to-hit-the-market-next-year-a397077 But does that mean that skeletal muscle tissue on a robot is somehow immersed in a liquid nutrient bath?
Well I have to admit that this is a little bit freaky, but still pretty cool. Who knows what this means for the future, I suppose that some Cyborg, hybrid robot in 2050 will owe it's movement to these early developments.
Rob, if you mean the use of animal tissue to create genetically engineered tissue, that practice is pretty regular. So are the protests by PETA et al. But this story is all about robots, not using this stuff on humans.
Rob, I agree. The field of robotics is constantly changing. The days of mechanized machines are becoming quite eloquent and sophisticated using bioengineering as the catalyst in the design process. Although I'm not an advocate of creating artifical beings, the ability to create robots with human dexterity is somewhat intriguing. As always, great article Ann!
Ann, it would seem as if keeping the tissue in the nutrient bath would would defeat the purpose of this technology - namely eliminating the space required for more conventional motion control.
Any idea about the life-span, or is the fact that it's being "fed" cause cell division for an indefinite amount of time, thereby reproducing itself? I'm running a little low on my memory of cellular biology.
Yes, Mrdon, and it makes sense to study the movement of different creatures to see what dynamics they are using that could be borrowed for machine motion. In robotics, I find that more interesting than the replication of human attributes.
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