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Researchers Develop World's First Soft Robot
7/19/2013

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A consortium of European researchers are designing a robotic octopus body and brain they say will be the first entirely soft robot. The robotic octopus will be able to propel itself through water, elongate its arms, and use them to reach and grasp items. A prototype can now manipulate its flexible tentacles to shoot itself through water in a movement known as sculling, as well as grasp objects and move via gaits not possible for the real animal.   (Source: OCTOPUS Project)
A consortium of European researchers are designing a robotic octopus body and brain they say will be the first entirely soft robot. The robotic octopus will be able to propel itself through water, elongate its arms, and use them to reach and grasp items. A prototype can now manipulate its flexible tentacles to shoot itself through water in a movement known as sculling, as well as grasp objects and move via gaits not possible for the real animal.
(Source: OCTOPUS Project)

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Rob Spiegel
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Cool robot
Rob Spiegel   7/19/2013 11:05:01 AM
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That's a very cool, robot, Ann. Given that it looks so much like a real octopus, it makes you wonder if it looks that way to mimic the looks of an octopus or whether there are efficiency reasons for the resemblance.

apresher
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Soft Robot
apresher   7/19/2013 11:05:24 AM
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Ann,  Excellent slide show and technology.  Seeing what new applications emerge will be very interesting and also how this approach evolves.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   7/19/2013 12:36:40 PM
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Thanks, Rob. I think the answer to your question is "both."

Charles Murray
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Re: Cool robot
Charles Murray   7/19/2013 6:12:14 PM
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Very cool story. I don't think Festo's robotic jellyfishh qualifies as a "soft robot," but it might be called semi-soft.

a.saji
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Re: Cool robot
a.saji   7/20/2013 11:44:04 AM
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@Charles: Yes not soft but semi –soft would be the ideal name for it. Anyway the performance factor too should be compared with the normal ones as a well before calling it a complete robot. 

mrdon
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Re: Cool robot
mrdon   7/20/2013 12:53:49 PM
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Ann, The slides are quite impressive. I can see these robotic octopi helping in underwater explorations or search and rescue operations because of their small size, flexibility, and agility. Adding a small camera will definitely provide a plus to the robotics attributes mentioned. Very nice article Ann!

mrdon
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Re: Cool robot
mrdon   7/20/2013 1:04:10 PM
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Rob, I agree. Biomimicry is definitely an becoming a Disruptive Technology in the robotics arena. The UAV robots used by the Army and Oceanographers will definitely be interested in this new form of robotics technology. These soft robots can explore the ocean depths without disturbing the undersea environment. Just imagine the amount of ocean data that can be obtain using a swarm of  robotic octopi, the mysteries to be uncover is mind-blogging.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   7/22/2013 12:58:48 PM
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Thanks, Chuck. Festo's robot jellyfish is definitely not a soft robot, since most of its structure is hard, not soft:

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=246206&image_number=2

There are two other robotic jellyfish we've written about: one from Virginia Tech that incorporates soft materials, although with a hard structure http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=262067 and one from Harvard/Caltech that incorporates engineered tissue and silicone, which is a soft robot:

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=250357

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cool robot
Rob Spiegel   7/22/2013 4:33:12 PM
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MrDon, I hadn't thought of it as a disruptive technology, but you're right. It does turn the automotive spot welding robot on its head.

Charles Murray
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Re: Cool robot
Charles Murray   7/22/2013 6:49:13 PM
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I agree, MrDon. Biomimicry is gaining momentum. I heard this morning that MIT researchers are building a robotic cheetah. (See story #3 from today's "Osgood File" on CBS radio. Link below.)

http://osgoodfile.com/

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