The world of robotics takes inspiration from a variety of things in nature, and the latest robotic arm developed by researchers at Harvard University is no different. The ‘TentacleGripper’ takes design cues from the highly intelligent and extremely malleable octopi.
The TentacleGripper is able to grip, manipulate, and a move a wide range of objects in the same manner that a real octopus arm can. It’s able to achieve this thanks to a number of suction cups attached to the arm allowing it to maintain a firm hold on a variety of objects, regardless of their size, shape and texture.
The TentacleGripper is made up of a silicone-based structure that is controlled by two valves, one that applies pressure which causes the arm to bend inwards, and the other to activate the ‘suckers’ on the arm. According to the researcher team who developed the TentacleGripper, previous efforts to develop a similar arm have either focused on mimicking only the suction aspect, or the movement of the arm, but never both at the same time like they have.
The goal behind TentacleGripper was to develop a single tool that can be used to grip and manipulate a wide range of objects without the need to use multiple different attachments and grippers.
“Our research is the first to quantify the tapering angles of the arms and the combined functions of bending and suction, which allows for a single small gripper to be used for a wide range of objects that would otherwise require the use of multiple grippers,” said co-author, August Domel, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University and former graduate student at the Wyss Institute and Harvard.
So far, the arm has been successfully in gripping onto various objects which include plastic sheets, coffee cups, test tubes varying in size, eggs and even live crabs, along with reaching into tiny spaces to retrieve objects.
Take a look at the TentacleGripper in action below.