Robots Moving More Human-Like than Ever Thanks to Biology-Based Designs

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Gone are the days where the only real robots were the loud, machine sounding, gray-metal eyesores that move, well, robot-like.

Meet Roboy, a four-foot-tall human shape robot with a set of human inspired “muscles,” developed by Rolf Pfeifer and colleagues in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich.

Roboy’s plastic muscles work together via electrical motors and artificial tendons that can mimic the flexible mechanics of biology, according to

This robot is just the beginning of what may be a wave of lighter, safer, and more natural moving robots.

“If you’re interested in just getting a job done – in a particular movement or something – then we have traditional methods that are based on motors or joints,” Pfeifer told “If you’re interested in more natural kinds of movements, tendon-driven technology needs to be explored.”

These tendon-driven robots are helpful to researchers who seek to explore how biomechanics can lead to “embodied intelligence,” or just more intelligent behavior.

“Most people know that intelligence requires the body, but they don’t know why,” Pfeifer said. “I think [Roboy] can be really interesting research platform for learning in systems with many degrees of freedom.”

Sisir Karumanci, a postdoc in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group, says a challenge for engineers is to perfectly model human’s complex motions.

“The calibration of tendons is a challenge for AI research,” he said.

Roboy is not the first tendon-driven robot, and definitely not the only recent advancement in robots. A recent project from the University of Tokyo has unveiled a tiny robot that is driven by a male silkworm moth responding to a female moth’s aroma, according to the Washington Post.

While Roboy remains grounded at the moment, not being able to walk, Pfeifer’s team is already working on the next bigger version of the robot containing more motion sensors.

Sources:, Washington Post