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  • Rubbery Robot?

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2005

The discovery that some octopuses use a pair of their tentacles to “walk” on the seafloor may spur development of soft robots. Whereas most bipedal locomotion requires the support of a rigid Octopus_1.jpgskeleton, these creatures use two arms in a rolling motion, similar to a tank tread, to propel themselves.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have studied the animals’ gait and built an artificial limb segment that could eventually become a robotic arm. A tube with a spring inside, it can be maneuvered via electrical current.

Although the prototype uses a metal frame, the researchers expect to develop a device supported only by musclelike bands, such as those of their marine model. The goal is a flexible robot that can wriggle into places where rigid relatives can’t go.

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