The news media are celebrating an autonomous soft robot shaped like an octopus. It has a lot to learn from its living counterpart.
Humans can be clever. The latest soft robot, able to move without batteries, is generating a lot of interest.
- Robotics: Generation soft (Nature): “Meet the octobot, the first robot to be made entirely from soft materials,” two Italian scientists write. “Powered by a chemical reaction and controlled by a fluidic logic circuit, it heralds a generation of soft robots that might surpass conventional machines.”
- Pneumatic octopus is a first for soft robotics (BBC News): Look what it can do with its pneumatic activators. Jonathan Webb says, “These movements aren’t good enough, just yet, to send the octobot out for a stroll; instead it sits in one place and executes a very slow, eight-legged can-can.”
- Soft robot octopus uses chemical fuel gut to explore untethered (New Scientist): Paul Marks writes, “Squashy and soft, this robot is different from its technological ancestors – Octobot runs without a power cable or rigid electronics, moving autonomously – if still clumsily – through the world.”
- Beyond Terminator: squishy ‘octobot’ heralds new era of soft robotics (Nature). Helen Shen wants us to be impressed. “A squishy octopus-shaped machine less than 2 centimetres tall is making waves in the field of soft robotics.” Schwarzenegger it ain’t.
Impressive as the achievement is for engineers (see their paper in Nature), readers may notice a few skills missing:
- Ability to swim fast.
- Ability to mimic other sea creatures.
- Ability to squirt ink to deter predators.
- Having tentacles with suckers able to grab things.
- Independently-programmable flexible tentacles that are coordinated by the brain.
- Skin that can turn on instant camouflage.
- Ability to lay eggs and reproduce itself.
Maybe those features will be added in v. 2,205,015,814 a few million years from now.
Biomimetics teaches us that nature’s designs vastly exceed human capabilities. Just the ability to reproduce is mind-boggling.