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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.

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."

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!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   7/24/2013 12:00:17 PM
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Thanks, mrdon. Good point about cameras.

Pubudu
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Re: Cool robot
Pubudu   7/25/2013 12:50:04 PM
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Very true mrdon, this will be very useful innovation,

When the foundation is done it will be very easy to add existing technology to it. 

Pubudu
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Re: Cool robot
Pubudu   7/25/2013 12:35:30 PM
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Thanks Ann for sharing, it's really interesting.

Love to see a video can you please share a link if there is any. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   7/25/2013 1:11:46 PM
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Pubudu, my previous post included a video link for BD's robot cheetah.

Debera Harward
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Re: Cool robot
Debera Harward   8/17/2013 5:15:03 AM
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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

Debera Harward
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Re: Cool robot
Debera Harward   8/17/2013 5:18:22 AM
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Soft Robots can be used in water wars by navy forces to act as spy buy including few more features  to it .

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   8/19/2013 12:51:01 PM
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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.

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. 

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

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.

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.

mrdon
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Re: Cool robot
mrdon   7/23/2013 1:31:17 PM
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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.

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/

mrdon
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Re: Cool robot
mrdon   7/23/2013 1:19:16 PM
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Charles, Thanks for the MIT Robotic Cheetah information from the Osgood files. Here's additional from the MIT website on their robotic cheetah research.

 

http://biomimetics.mit.edu:8100/wordpress/videos/

William K.
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Re: Cool robot
William K.   7/22/2013 9:55:49 PM
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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?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot
Ann R. Thryft   7/24/2013 12:05:52 PM
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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chPanW0QWhA

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.

AnandY
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Re- Cool Robot
AnandY   7/26/2013 6:07:13 AM
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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.

Don Yates
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Soft robots - started as soft toys, 30 years ago!
Don Yates   8/9/2013 8:26:46 PM
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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.





Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Soft robots - started as soft toys, 30 years ago!
Ann R. Thryft   8/12/2013 6:37:49 PM
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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?

Don Yates
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Re: Soft robots - started as soft toys, 30 years ago!
Don Yates   8/12/2013 8:15:29 PM
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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.

InterestedNancy
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First soft robot?
InterestedNancy   8/20/2013 3:34:33 PM
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Ann, you mentioned that this is not the "first" soft robot (although it is the first that is entirely soft). Waht is the first soft robot? Thank you!

Nancy

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: First soft robot?
Ann R. Thryft   8/20/2013 4:35:03 PM
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Nancy, as I mentioned before, soft robotics is a developing field that's been around awhile. I suggest you try googling the term for more information.

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