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These soft robotic muscles could help with physical therapy


Robotic exoskeletons are one of those technologies that tend to be associated with warfare or at least the industrial sector, but soft robotics and artificial muscles like these ones created by Swiss researchers make them suitable for more delicate operations as well.

The Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne is working on this versatile technology, specifically a tubular muscle made of elastic materials, the motion of which can be tightly controlled. They can stretch and bend when activated by air pumps — currently not small enough to wear, but getting there.

Alone, they look like weird little worms. But by packing these actuators into bundles, the researchers have made simple robots that act as a credible analogue to human muscles.

Sure, you could use them to create super-strong workers or punching machines, but the Swiss aren’t like us. They’re taking a more humanitarian path.