What the world needs now, most of all, is a robotic octopus tentacle. So it’s a good thing Harvard scientists are on the case.
Along with researchers from Beihang University, they’ve created a soft robotic arm inspired by octopus tentacles. From the abstract of their study, published last month in Soft Robotics:
“Octopuses can employ their tapered arms to catch prey of all shapes and sizes due to their dexterity, flexibility, and gripping power. Intrigued by variability in arm taper angle between different octopus species, we explored the utility of designing soft actuators exhibiting a distinctive conical geometry, compared with more traditional cylindrical forms.”
The robotic arm, complete with octopus-like suction cups, can pick up an assortment of objects, as seen in the accompanying video. This includes eggs, exercise balls, and what I’m assuming is a very aggravated and confused live crab (you can see a gif of that one over at Harvard’s Wyss Institute).
The robotic tentacle works through two means of control: A valve that applies pressure to bend the arm, and another that, along with the suckers, acts as a vacuum.
According to study co-senior author Katia Bertoldi, their research has led to “new insights into the creation of next-generation soft robotic actuators for gripping a wide range of morphologically diverse objects.”