- The octopus has impressive brain and brawn. The smartest invertebrate on the planet, it is also a master of camouflage and contortion, squeezing its soft but muscular body into tiny spaces and swiftly transforming the color and texture of its skin to evade predators.
- In recent years engineers have been trying to mimic the octopus's many talents in the form of a soft-bodied robot capable of technical feats no current terrestrial robot can accomplish.
- Researchers have already devised a four-legged “octobot” that can crawl and change color, as well as eerily lifelike artificial octopus arms that curl around whatever they touch. Such robots will also help scientists better understand how living octopuses behave in their natural habitat.
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Octopuses are some of the most complex, bizarre and intelligent creatures in the sea. They can squeeze through holes smaller than a quarter, pull with hundreds of pounds of force, change the color and texture of their skin in an instant and, with their walnut-sized brains, figure out how to open a childproof pill bottle to reach a tasty morsel of crab. With such an impressive array of skills, it was only a matter of time before engineers started asking: Could we make a robot that behaves like an octopus?
The OCTOPUS Integrating Project is one group that is trying to answer just this question. This multi-institution, international collaboration is working toward a fully autonomous robotic octopus that could, like a real mollusk, accomplish feats that no hard-jointed bot ever could.
This article was originally published with the title How to Build a Robot Octopus.