Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Born to be Viral: Robot octopus shakes your hand

It's not your typical handshake, but a new robotic arm can hold your hand or even grab a bottle. Developed by Cecilia Laschi and colleagues at The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy, it's the latest breakthrough from a nearly 10 million Euro project aiming to create a robot that mimics the abilities of a real octopus.
The team designed the arm by using computer models derived from measurements of real octopuses in the lab. Then they created the artificial limb from soft rubber embedded with artificial muscle fibres, allowing it to flex or stretch when an electric potential is applied. It's also equipped with contact sensors, placed under the surface, that detect an object in its reach.
But the goal isn't just to create a limb: the researchers are now investigating how to coordinate multiple appendages to better replicate the dexterous motion of an octopus. "The arms will be controlled based on a neural network," says Laura Margheri, a member of the team. "We'll be trying to exploit the mechanical adaptability of an octopus's limbs to ensure a safe interaction with objects and its environment."
The researchers also plan to improve the arm's sensing system by copying the way receptors in muscles detect the motion or position of a limb. By incorporating this feedback, it should grasp objects more precisely. The team will also be looking at how to make the robo-octopus move on different terrains.
OCTOPUS is a project funded by the European Commission as part of the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme.
If you enjoyed this video, check out a mechanical fish that can accelerate superfast or bionic penguins that can swim or fly. You might also like to watch a crafty octopus solve a maze.


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