Abstract We have attempted to develop an artificial articular cartilage on the basis of a new viewpoint of joint biomechanics in which lubrication and load-bearing mechanisms of natural and artificial joints are compared. We investigated poly (vinyl alcohol)-hydrogel (PVA-H) which has been recognized as a rubber-like gel and have improved the mechanical properties of this gel through a new synthetic process. In this article we report the biocompatibility and various mechanical properties of the new, improved PVA-H from the aspect of its usefulness as artificial articular cartilage. As regards the lubrication, we measured the change of thickness and fluid pressure of the gap formed between a glass plate and the specimen under loading and found that the PVA-H had a thicker fluid film under higher pressure than polyethylene (PE). The momentary stress transmitted through the specimen revealed that PVA-H had a lower peak stress and a longer duration of sustained stress than PE, suggesting a better damping effect. The wear factor of PVA-H was approximately five times as large as that of PE. Histological findings of the articular cartilage and synovial membranes around the PVA-H implanted for 8–52 weeks showed neither inflammatory nor degenerative changes. The PVA-H artificial articular cartilage could be attached to the underlying bone using an osteochondral composite material. Although there remain still some problems to solve, PVA-H seems to be a very interesting and promising material which meets the requirements of artificial articular cartilage.