You have no idea how efficient your muscles are at turning Cheerios into chin-ups. Muscles are silent, smooth, and powerful. All useful machinery humans have built to date are clacking whirring rotating things. IEEE Spectrum has a good article this month (not available for public reading, unfortunately) about artificial muscles. This same topic was recently a cover story in Scientific American (PDF version here). I’m very happy to see interest in this topic taking off, because I’m convinced it’s one of the great enabling technologies of our age if we can make it practical. The author of the Spectrum article, Yoseph Bar-Cohen, has an Artificial Muscle web hub that details a grand challenge for the young field: an armwrestling match between a robotic arm and a human. It looks like this is actually going to happen in March of next year. Let’s hear it for Team Cyborg!