Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Octopus tentacles inspire robotic design

16 March 2020

Kraken Idea

Little escapes the embrace of an octopus – their arms are strong and flexible; their suckers ready to grab and pull. Watching these natural grippers hard at work in deep seas, mechanical engineers found inspiration for a new robotic arm with simpler, but similar mechanics – an example of biomimicry. Adjusting air pressure to control the arm’s bending and sucking power, here they help the arm wrap around and stick to a variety of objects. And while real-life octopuses don’t drink coffee, re-creating their anatomy provides fresh insight into how conical, tapered arms help octopuses perform complex twists and pokes. With medical robots already helping out in some labs and operating theatres, perhaps in the future mollusc-inspired soft robots might lend a hand, or an arm.

Written by John Ankers

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