Actuators inspired by muscle

June 1, 2016

To make robots more cooperative and have them perform tasks in close proximity to humans, they must be softer and safer. A new actuator developed by Harvard researchers generates movements similar to those of skeletal muscles using vacuum power to automate soft, rubber beams.

Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working collaboratively alongside them or the...

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In automaton we trust

May 24, 2016

If Hollywood is to be believed, there are two kinds of robots, the friendly and helpful BB-8s, and the sinister and deadly T-1000s. Few would suggest that “Star Wars: the Force Awakens” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” are scientifically accurate, but the two popular films beg the question, “Do humans place too much trust in robots?”

The answer to that question is as complex and multifaceted as robots themselves, according to the work...

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Harvard collaborates with ReWalk Robotics to develop wearable exosuits for patients with limited mobility

May 18, 2016

Harvard University has entered into a collaboration with ReWalk Robotics Ltd., to accelerate the development of lightweight, wearable soft exosuit technologies for assisting people with lower limb disabilities. The agreement with ReWalk will help speed the design of assistive exosuits that could help patients suffering from stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS) to regain mobility.

"This is a very exciting day for the soft exosuit...

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Dive of the RoboBee

October 20, 2015

In 1939, a Russian engineer proposed a “flying submarine” -- a vehicle that can seamlessly transition from air to water and back again. While it may sound like something out of a James Bond film, engineers have been trying to design functional aerial-aquatic vehicles for decades with little success. Now, engineers may be...

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What drones can do

October 14, 2015

With the whine of furious bees, two drones raced three times around Harvard Stadium, rolling and tumbling before a crowd of about 500, then swooping through a goalpost and landing on the artificial turf.

But that wasn’t the coolest part.

The coolest part was that the spectators could see what drone pilots were seeing as they navigated their pigeon-sized crafts via remote control and...

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Conor Walsh named one of MIT Technology Review’s ‘Innovators Under 35’

August 18, 2015

Conor Walsh, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Core Faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, has been recognized as one of the world’s top innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review...

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Controlling the uncontrollable

August 17, 2015

Instability in engineering is generally not a good thing. If you’re building a skyscraper, minor instabilities could bring the whole structure crashing down in a fraction of a second. But what if a quick change in shape is exactly what you want?

Soft machines and robots are becoming more and more functional, capable of moving, jumping, gripping an object, and even changing color.  The elements responsible for their actuation motion...

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Robotic insect mimics nature’s extreme moves

July 30, 2015

The concept of walking on water might sound supernatural, but in fact it is a quite natural phenomenon. Many small living creatures leverage water’s surface tension to maneuver themselves around. One of the most complex maneuvers, jumping on water, is achieved by a species of semi-aquatic insects called water striders that not only skim along water’s surface but also generate enough upward thrust with their legs to launch themselves airborne...

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