Thursday, March 26, 2009
Robot octopus will go where no sub has gone before
Invest €10 million in a robotic octopus and you will be able to search the seabed with the same dexterity as the real eight-legged cephalopod. At least that's the plan, say those who are attempting to build a robot with arms that work in the same way that octopuses tentacles do. Having no solid skeleton, it will be the world's first entirely soft robot.
The trouble with today's remote-controlled subs, says Cecilia Laschi of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, is that their large hulls and clunky robot arms cannot reach into the nooks and crannies of coral reefs or the rock formations on ocean floors. That means they are unable to photograph objects in these places or pick up samples for analysis. And that's a major drawback for oceanographers hunting for signs of climate change in the oceans and on coral reefs.
Because an octopus's tentacles can bend in all directions and quickly thin and elongate to almost twice their length, they can reach, grasp and manipulate objects in tiny spaces with extraordinary dexterity.
"So we are replicating the muscular structure of an octopus by making a robot with no rigid structure - and that is completely new to robotics," she says.
Read the full article here.