Feeds

Octopuses inspire next-generation robots

Flexible

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Researchers at the University of California have started work on a new kind of robot that will be able to walk without a rigid skeleton. This so-called soft robot would be able to go places its more rigid counterparts cannot, squeezing into small spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The researchers hope that once completed, the robots will be useful to search and rescue teams in the aftermath of earthquakes, car accidents or during fires.

Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley said: "The wonderful thing about soft robotics is that it's infinitely adaptable, unlike the few degrees of freedom of rigid robots."

The team was inspired by the discovery that two species of octopus can effectively walk along the sea floor using two of their arms, almost like a tank moves along tracks, according to the BBC World Service's Science in Action programme. Every other example of bipedal locomotion involves the support of a rigid skeleton, but the octopuses move along supported purely by the strength of their muscles (and the sea, obviously).

The researchers think the walking technique has evolved to allow the octopuses to back away from a predator while maintaining their camouflage.

The octopuses walk along by forming functional feet with their arms. The animals roll backwards along the suckers on one flattened arm, before switching to the other arm and repeating the process. Take a peak at a clip of an octopus in motion here.

To mimic this process, the research team has built a prototype section of a robotic arm, effectively an artificial muscle. The "muscle" is really a tube with a spring inside, the BBC explains. It can bend in all directions, can be compressed and stretched.

By linking many of these tubes together, the researchers think they could create an artificial octopus arm, paving the way for robots that move in a whole new way. ®

Bootnote

Regular Register readers will no doubt see through this latest thinly veiled attempt by the Lizard army to subjugate the human race. Constant vigilance is the only possible response to the terrifying Rise of The Machines™.

Related stories

Inside Sun Labs - the best and the 'bots
Labour MP backs Captain Cyborg shocker
Battling teen crushes roboarm menace

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.