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See Inside Scientific American Volume 309, Issue 4

How to Build a Robot Octopus

Smart, strong and flexible, the octopus is an enticing model for an entirely new kind of many-armed, multitalented robot

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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.

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