Robotic octopus could provide a helping hand..hand...hand...

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Forget Robocop, there is a new robot in town – roboctopus!

Researchers at Reading University are developing a robotic octopus which may be used in future for underwater maintenance, marine salvage and retrieval of objects such as black box recorders from crashed aircraft.

The octopus is designed to match a real octopus in terms of speed, dexterity and flexibility. Like a real octopus it will also be able to twist, elongate and bend its arms in all directions without the need for joints or a skeletal system.

Dr Richard Bonser from Reading University’s School of Construction Management and Engineering has been awarded £649,000 as part of an EU is quoted in The Engineer:

"Essentially they won’t have any joints because the construction of the robot is given over to the entirely soft body. At the moment there is one set of actuators at the base of each arm, because it appears from octopus behaviour that the octopus can achieve quite complex patterns of movement simply by rotating the base of each arm."

At the moment there is a single arm which can move but it will be another couple of years before all eight move together. Check out the video to see how it works:

 

The researchers are also designing a waterproof skin and suckers to enable the roboctopus to grip and hold objects. Bonser came up with the idea of a sucker protoptype after buying a squid from a fishmonger which still stuck to the side of the sink despite having been frozen and defrosted.

Consequently, Bonser and his team were able to manufacture rows of suckers 7-8 mm in diameter along the entire length of the arm that can generate a lifting force of around four Newtons.

To stop water getting in to the mechanism, the Reading team is developing a material that is a combination of a textile and silicon rubber that will maintain a high degree of waterproofing.