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)
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:
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?
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:
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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