Wobbling Ahead in Robotics: Two-Legged Biohybrid Robot Mimics Human Gait

Japanese researchers develop a biohybrid robot inspired by human gait, capable of walking and turning, blending biology and mechanics.

In a impressive development, a team of researchers from Japan has crafted a two-legged biohybrid robot, drawing inspiration from the human body’s flexibility and energy-efficient movement. This innovative creation, detailed in the journal Matter, marks a significant stride in the intersection of biology and mechanical engineering.

The muscle tissue can drive the two-legged biohybrid robot to walk forward upon electricity stimulation, Matter/Kinjo et al

Shoji Takeuchi of the University of Tokyo, the corresponding author, illuminates the essence of this research. “Research on biohybrid robots, which are a fusion of biology and mechanics, is recently attracting attention as a new field of robotics featuring biological function,” Takeuchi explains. He highlights the advantages of using muscle tissues as actuators, noting, “Using muscle as actuators allows us to build a compact robot and achieve efficient, silent movements with a soft touch.”

This new robot exemplifies innovation with its bipedal design, a leap beyond previous biohybrid models limited to linear movements. The researchers’ design stands out for its ability to mimic human walking and execute sharp turns, a vital feature for maneuvering around obstacles. The robot, equipped with a foam buoy and weighted legs for underwater stability, features a silicone rubber skeleton that flexibly aligns with muscle movements. Lab-grown skeletal muscle tissues attached to each leg enable the robot to walk and turn with precision.

The robot’s walking mechanism is fascinating. Upon receiving electrical stimulation, the muscle tissue contracts, lifting and moving the leg forward. By alternating stimulation between the legs every 5 seconds, the robot achieves a walking speed of 5.4 mm/min (0.002 mph). For turning, the researchers activate one leg repeatedly, enabling the robot to pivot and make a 90-degree turn in 62 seconds.

By repeatedly applying electricity to one of the bipedal biohybrid robot’s legs, the robot made a 90-degree turn using the other leg as an anchor. Matter/Kinjo et al.

“Currently, we are manually moving a pair of electrodes to apply an electric field individually to the legs, which takes time,” Takeuchi points out. He expresses optimism for the future, stating, “In the future, by integrating the electrodes into the robot, we expect to increase the speed more efficiently.”

Looking ahead, the team aims to enhance the robot’s capabilities by adding joints and thicker muscle tissues for more complex movements. However, these advancements understandably require a nutrient supply system to maintain the living tissues.

Takeuchi reflects on a moment of collective pride, saying, “A cheer broke out during our regular lab meeting when we saw the robot successfully walk on the video.” He acknowledges the significance of these advancements: “Though they might seem like small steps, they are, in fact, giant leaps forward for the biohybrid robots.”

You can read the full paper now in Matter.

Staff Writer

Our in-house science writing team has prepared this content specifically for Lab Horizons

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