Toyota is developing artificial muscles for robots so they can mimic human movements
Toyota has applied to the USPTO for a patent to cover artificial robot muscles that it is developing. The company aims to use the technology to allow robots to mimic human movements and carry out dangerous or repetitive tasks.
The patent application is for a new use of actuators which are machine parts that use energy, such as air or hydraulic, and convert it into mechanical movements. They are often compared to biological muscles and are commonly used in sliding doors and escalators.
Toyota states in the filing that soft robotics, including the use of actuators, provides better "versatility, performance and reliability" compared to current technologies, which could be a strong selling point for the company.
According to the document, some existing robotic actuators use fluids, which have restricted use cases due to "a reliance on heat sealing and adhesives". Toyota aims to solve this problem by using a vacuum with electrodes and polymers in place of the liquid, which will allow the company to make these parts from materials that are hard to heat seal.
Toyota has been working on robots since 2014, with its first working prototype released in 2017. The applications of the company's technology include a robotic basketball player and a human support robot used at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Toyota has recently been focused on improving joint control and balance, which is likely linked to this new patent.