My epic tour of SRI International: why artificial muscle might be in your next iPhone

I’ve been very lucky to have gotten inside many of the world’s best corporations and R&D labs. But once in a while I get a tour that’s just over the top. Two weeks ago was one of those. Where was I? SRI International. This is the place where the mouse and many many other things were invented over the past 60 years.

I thought the tour was so important for techies to see and had historical importance, so I offered it to Techcrunch as a guest post. They loved it too, so that’s where it lives.

In the multi-part tour (I uploaded 12 videos) you’ll see all sorts of fun things like robots that climb the walls, surgery robots that let surgeons do their work from thousands of miles away, audio translators that let you speak in different languages just by speaking English into an iPhone-like device, a Microsoft Kinect system that lets you try on various handbags, among many other things.

It is a tour you need to see to appreciate.

But there’s a product announcement locked deep into those videos too. In one about artificial muscles they pulled out an iPhone with a Mophie pack. But this wasn’t any Mophie pack, it’s one that’s coming out in a few weeks.

What did it do? Added haptic feedback to the iPhone. It was quite remarkable what the difference was when it was turned on. I can’t really describe it. But inside were artificial muscles developed at SRI.

Will Apple ship these in the next iPhone? Who knows (Apple bought another company developed at SRI, Siri. Their technology IS expected to be introduced this summer as part of the next iPhone) but you can order your Mophie Pulse with these muscles inside (works on the iPod touch 4G, not the iPhone).

It’s labs like these that show me that there’s more to do in nearly every part of our lives and that we haven’t seen the end to tech innovations that are coming out of Silicon Valley.

Thank you to all the engineers who took time out of their day to show me around and give me some mind-blowing demos. I can’t wait for my next visit!

Also thank you to Rackspace for asking me simply “go learn about what’s going on on the bleeding edge of technology and share it with the world.”

That’s quite a mission and one I appreciate very much.

I’ve only embedded one small piece of the tour here. The rest is over on Techcrunch. It’s quite remarkable stuff, so please don’t miss it.