A Tiny, Robotic Stingray
July 11, 2016 Leave a comment
Scientists have created a robotic stingray–or a cyborg stingray might be a better way to put it. The little robot is only 16 millimeters long and was designed to test out soft tissue robotics ideas. The fins of the stingray are controlled by cardiomyocytes, which are muscle cells–in this case from rats. The cells are triggered by light, and the robot can store excess energy created by the cells. Triggering the cells makes them contract and flap the fins down, and they go back up when the cells relax. The robot can be controlled with light well enough to navigate an obstacle course.
Inspiration from science fiction aside, what impact will this robot have? Its importance is that it will provide more data about soft-tissue robotics, and doing so will allow us to work on more elaborate projects. Figuring out ways to create smaller robots is a big step in making them more useful, as the big ones that build cars aren’t as useful in, say, surgery.
By finding ways to combine natural and artificial materials (this stingray is made of gold in addition to rat cells, this experiment could allow us to make more unique robots. Soft-tissue robotics also allows for robots that are more flexible, which means they don’t face the same kinds of issues that fully metal and electronic robots might face. This tiny ray, for example, can move around in water without its controllers having to worry about shorts or rust.
In the future, as robots become more mainstream and we start to see more useful robots coming the market, changing the ways we work, we should expect to see more novel robots like this stingray.