Octopus and their cephalopod brethren
have been the inspiration for many science fiction creatures (especially your favourite anime fantasy).
The individual motor control of an octopus' eight arms
, its huge proportions, vigilant scrambling across the seafloor and its amazing ability of squeezing itself through small spaces can be downright shudder-inducing. And apparently, scientists have long been interested with them as well, using these as models for biomimicry. Now, a German industrial automation company, Festo, presents another amazing soft robot modelled after such creature: The OctopusGripper.
Octopus tentacles, just like our tongue and elephant trunks, are what's called a "muscular hydrostat." So, Festo fashioned an octopus arm to flex and bend without the need for any hard "bone" or metal structure inside. And instead of having the muscles water-based, they’ve designed the robot to utilize compressed air in order to bend and be able to control its flexibility. Add it up with a passive and vacuum-powered suction cups for gripping, and there you have it! (Watch the video below)
While it is still a delightfully unnerving sight as sci-fi turned to reality, would you want these designs to be parts of our future, grasping and squeezing with its sucker-hand? For Festo envisions these to work together with people, noting that there’s no danger at all from this writhing disembodied tentacle, and that it’s a friendly and helpful bot.
"Its safe structure already meets the strict criteria of a soft robotics component and guarantees a safe working relationship with people," the company states in a design overview
. "Even in the event of a collision, they are harmless and do not have to be shielded from the worker like conventional factory robots." So, there nothing to fear from the robotic octopus. Again, as a Festo spokesperson told Motherboard
, "The gripper poses no danger to the user in direct contact.”