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These BioBots show some real muscle

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Posted March 10, 2016
For Jessy Grizzle, a robotics engineer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (UM), events like the 2011 earthquake in Turkey remind him of the importance of his work -- developing feedback and control algorithms that one day will give bipedal robots the balance needed to conduct search and rescue missions in dangerous environments. Grizzle, along with a group of robotics engineers and students at UM, is not only working to develop algorithms -- self-contained, step-by-step operations -- to be performed by walking robots, he's working to revolutionize them. He says prevailing techniques can only handle the flat-footed phase of normal walking and hence yield very unnatural gaits. Bipedal robots require scientists and engineers to reprogram them to accomplish different walking tasks. A robot programmed to walk over a flat floor would be tuned differently than another robot capable of traversing stairs or stepping over fallen debris.The switch between tasks is difficult and time-consuming. Grizzle wants bipedal robots to be able to make the transitions with speed and to walk faster, much faster. He also wants them to step over and around obstacles, and move on uneven walking surfaces, without tipping over. Image credit: University of Michigan

Jessy Grizzle, along with a group of robotics engineers and students at UM, is not only working to develop algorithms — self-contained, step-by-step operations — to be performed by walking robots, he’s working to revolutionize them. A robot programmed to walk over a flat floor would be tuned differently than another robot capable of traversing stairs or stepping over fallen debris.The switch between tasks is difficult and time-consuming. Grizzle wants bipedal robots to be able to make the transitions with speed and to walk faster, much faster. He also wants them to step over and around obstacles, and move on uneven walking surfaces, without tipping over. Image credit: University of Michigan

The tiny BioBots engineered at one NSF-funded Science and Technology Center (STC) move a bit like inchworms, but they represent giant strides in science and engineering. They can be controlled with electrical or optical signals and use muscle tissue for power.

The mission of the STC on Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) is to develop the science and technology needed to engineer clusters of living cells. This will eventually help mankind address challenges in health, security and the environment. EBICS researchers at the forefront of this novel and multidisciplinary field are committed to sharing responsible and ethically conscious practices for forward engineering biological machines.

Currently, researchers are focused on BioBots that mimic the body, but, perhaps one day, biological machines could replace animals for drug testing, or be used to detect and neutralize toxins in the environment or even sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

Source: NSF

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