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)
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.
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!
Thanks Ann for such an informative post to be very frank unfortunately I was unaware of soft robots . I really liked this idea as it is economical as compared to other robots, more flexible and highly capable
You're welcome, Deberah. DN has covered soft robotics before, most recently here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=249826 This new one isn't actually the first, but it is the first that's entirely soft, with no hard components. That's quite a feat.
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:
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.
Rob, The intended product use of the designer and how the end user applies it to their application is what makes Disruptive Technology so fascinating. You never known how the customer will use your product. The field of robotics is an area of technology that is quite receptive to disruption.
OK, now it has a reasonable name: Bio MImimicry, which explans it all in the name. Very good. It will be quite interesting to see what uses come up for this technology.
And it is an interesting engineering direction, since good engineering proactice is to start with something that works if you can make it fit your application. So just copy the animals that most closely follow the motions that you are looking for.
Now, how can they produce that octopus with 3D printing?
Biomimicry has been around for some time in robot design. Boston Dynamics was one of the early pioneers by studying not only how land animals looked, but mimicking how they move, as well. They also developed a robot cheetah before MIT did:
It is yet another interesting development in the Bio mimicry development which I must say is really useful, sea surveying was initially done by animals which in most cases the operators had limited control but with this new robot the exercise will be carried out with ease. This technology really does make the automotive robot look like a Stone Age creature.
Soft robots are exciting, but not new. The best part now are the bits and pieces to reproduce them at very economical costs, even our Ultimate Toy.
Our Ultimate Toy started life in 1982 as an useful toy that took care of itself, walking and climbing around on its 6 legs and recharging on a recharge mat. It responded to squeezing and voice recognition, even having a short conversation. It could also respond to voice commands, even doing useful things like retrieving stuff and tasks like unlocking cars. ( A sort of remote third hand).
And the best part, this CD sized mate can be rolled up and carried in your pocket to be a 24/7 helpul companion, at work, war, rest or play.
Don, that is hysterical--thanks for the info on soft robot toys. It's even kind of cute. Unfortunately, the name Ultimate Toy gives a lot of listings on Google that aren't yours. Can you give us a link?
At this time, my 'Ultimate Toy' sits rolled up in my pocket. We think it needs exposure in a film like my script called "Free Parking" with a whole lot of other tricky stuff! Truth is, she is loney and would like more similar friends to be loved!
Inside her soft and cuddly fluffy outside, there is a combination of 2 sets of 3 flexible legs for walking and grasping, driven by air logic and some infamous string. There is a reverse facing pouch for carrying things like a wombat.
Her heart does other stuff in a trainset http://www.miningfamilies.com/projects.html and a mining application http://www.mitseals.com (pronounced 'mighty seals') with NFC (near field communications) and a unique zigbee number.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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