Posts Tagged ‘Festo Robotics’

Robots with Imitation Muscles

December 20, 2021

Here’s more robot stuff. Some of the robotics research is exploring ways to create an artificial musculature in which the machines’ limbs are moved through the contraction and expansion of fibres or hydraulic/pneumatic tubes, which act like human and animal muscles. Here’s a couple of videos showing these robots in action.

The first is from the Suzumori Endo Robotics Laboratory at Tokyo University and shows what is described as a musculoskeletal robot driven by multifilament fibres. It’s an artificial human skeleton with bundles of these filaments attached to the legs and jaw in imitation of human muscles. The video shows it walking, which it has to do with the aid of another device, kicking a football and chewing a carrot.

This second video from Thomas Phillips’ channel on YouTube, and shows the Festo Air Arm. I put up a video of the robot animals created by Festo a few years ago. They’re also developing machines with an artificial musculature. In this instance the muscles are pneumatic tubes. When inflated, the length contracts as the diameter expands the way human muscles act. The voiceover states that it can be remotely controlled by a human in a kind of exoskeleton that allows the operator’s movements to be copied by the machine. The company hopes that this will allow the robots to operate where humans cannot. The robot’s hands move using the same principle, which the company hopes will allow the machine more naturalistic interactions with humans. Which means the robot and a human shaking hands. They also believe it will lead to more precise movements, shown by one of the robots – at present just arms and a torso – drawing on a screen.

These robots with their artificial muscles on top of a skeleton remind me more than a little of the humanoids from the SF series Westworld, which seem to have been constructed in a similar way. Perhaps the show’s writers, producers and special effects crews took their inspiration from research into artificial muscles like the above. It’s a fascinating development, and I wonder if it will also ultimately lead to better, more naturalistic artificial limbs. I just hope the machines don’t get too sophisticated, like those of Westworld, and get ideas about rebellion.

Six Robot Animals from Festo Robotics

December 17, 2021

Here’s another fascinating little video about robots. It’s not just humanoid robots that the cybernetics companies are developing, quite apart from the machines that aren’t intended to resemble people, like the industrial robotic arms. They’ve also been developing robot animals. Boston Robotics did it with their ‘Big Dog’ robots, which were intended as carriers for the American army. The project eventually failed because the noise from the machines’ electric motors would have been too loud for the stealth needed on combat missions. The machines, however, do strongly resemble dogs. Festo Robotics have taken this further and developed robotic versions of various animals, as this video from Inventions World on YouTube shows. The machines are a flying fox; jellyfish; a wheelbot, that can curl up and roll along before uncurling itself to walk on crab-like feet, somewhat like the robots that Obi Wan Kenobi and his teacher first encounter aboard the Trade Federation’s craft in the first Star Wars prequel, the Phantom Menace; a bird; butterflies; and a kangaroo. Well, actually the last one is more like a wallaby. It’s not as large as an Australian kangaroo. But this one clearly has some intelligence, as the video shows a young woman telling it turn round and move to a different place by pointing. I think she’s able to control it through a device wrapped around one of her arms.

These are amazing machines, beautiful and graceful. I wonder what a whole ecology of such robots would be like. There have been attempts to depict such an environment. There was a short-lived strip in 2000 AD, ‘Metalzoic’, set in the far future when humanity had been ousted as the dominant creature on Earth by robots with the ability to reproduce. There was thus a whole ecology of robot animals, and the strip followed the adventures of a group of robot cave people as they sought out the God-Beast, a robot mammoth which contained the master programme controlling this mechanical world. And a few years before that, Valiant ran a story in their ‘Spider’ strip, in which the brooding genius and his minions were forced into fighting another evil genius, who had created his own synthetic robotic environment on his secret island. ‘The Spider’ was a British strip that had zilch to do with Marvel’s Spiderman. According to the Bronze Age of Blogs, now sadly closed down, ‘The Spider’ was a criminal mastermind, who had decided to fight other criminals because they were too stupid or otherwise beneath him. You wouldn’t know it from reading the strip, as until art robot Kevin O’Neil introduced it in 2000 AD, artists, writers and letterers weren’t credited in British comics, but the writer on the strip was Joe Siegel, one of the co-creators of Superman! These machines would also have delighted the Futurists, although I fear they had a darker, more violent purpose for them. One of their manifestoes called for the creation of biomechanical animals to train boys in war. I’d rather have such creatures made for the sheer delight of their invention and their graceful beauty. The bird in particular reminds me of one of the characters in M. John Harrison’s science fantasy novel, The Pastel City, who makes robot birds. As a result, his castle is surround by flocks of them. Perhaps as the technology advances we might expect similar robots along with the other robotic toys now available.