How do you build a robot octopus? That, it turns out, is a question scientists around the world are racing to answer. And given that octopuses are all squish and smarts–and our robots are hard and, well, developing–it is no small task.
But such a bot could be important for search and rescue operations, exploration, and simply proving that building an entirely soft-bodied robot is possible.
In this month’s Scientific American, I follow one team in Italy who is making serious headway, having already created squishy, bendable arms and a mobile body. Their lab, on the shores of the Mediterranean, is a robotic octopus incubator, evidenced by the myriad prototype arms made of silicone and shape-memory metals, a sizable kiddy pool for test swims, and a gregarious live octopus mascot.