Scientists Invent Robotic Tentacles

Posted on May 10, 2006

New Scientist reports that scientists have invented robotic arms called Octarms.

Robotic "tentacles" that can grasp and grapple with a wide variety of objects have been developed by US researchers.

Most robots rely on mechanical gripping jaws that have difficulty grabbing large or irregularly shaped objects. Replacing these with tentacle-like manipulators could make robots more nimble and flexible, say the scientists.

The tentacle-like manipulators, known as "Octarms", resemble an octopus's limb or an elephant's trunk. They were developed through a project called OCTOR (sOft robotiC manipulaTORs), which involves several US universities and is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

"An elephant's trunk can pick up a peanut or a tree trunk," says Ian Walker, a member of the project team from Clemson University in South Carolina. "This ability, inherent in the OCTOR robots, gives OCTOR arms a huge advantage over conventional industrial robots."

Why do today's inventions have to look and function like the appendages of comic book supervillains? You just know one of the scientists is eventually going to strap a few of these octarms on. Do you think we are kidding? One of the scientists is already thinking about it.
"Coordinated control of multiple arms would be a real challenge," says Chris Rahn, another project member from Pennsylvania State University. But it is by no means impossible, he adds. He believes the robotic tentacles could perhaps one day be used to create a robotic octopus or even a backpack with extra limbs.
Someday a scientists is going to try Chris Rahn's backpack idea and then something will go wrong, just like with Otto Octavius' experiment, and then we will have our own flesh and blood Dr. Octopus to deal with.

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