We've seen ultrastrong artificial muscles and a freaky rubbery motor using the technology, but researchers at the University of Cambridge are taking things to another level. They've developed the first such "muscle" (which is actually made out of smooth plastic) that can learn and remember movement. It's similar to the way muscle memory works in nature -- if you spend time learning how to play the piano, eventually you'll be able to recall complex finger movements without much thought. The new material, dubbed polymeric electro-mechanical memory (EMM), can also recall movement without any prodding. It's also a step up from existing technology, which can only remember shapes. The discovery may eventually lead to more life-like implementations of artificial muscles for bio-medical uses, robotics (like the artificial fish above), and a slew of other fields. In particular, the researchers found that it could manipulated with low-voltage inputs, which bodes well for its use as something we can put in our bodies.
[Illustration: Stoyan Smoukov]