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 'Walking' octopus inspires soft robots

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Date posted: 07/06/2005

The surprise discovery that octopi can "walk" along the sea bed on two tentacles has inspired scientists seeking to create of a new generation of soft, flexible robots.

Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley believe they can develop artificial muscles for use in a new field of soft robotics using the studies of the octopus's movement.

"Each arm rolls along the suckers and pushes the animal back, and then the other arm touches down, rolls along the suckers, and pushes the animal back again," biologist Chrissy Hufford explained. "They flatten part of their arm like a tank tread, and roll backwards on it. They make a functional foot, even though they don't have an anatomic foot."

Importantly, the movement is much more fluid than in creatures with a skeleton.

"That's why it was such a surprise to see - because every other example of bipedal locomotion before had involved the support of a rigid skeleton," Dr Hufford added.

A prototype of a segment of what might become an octopus-like arm has already been built.

It is a "rolled" artificial muscle - a tube with a spring inside, into which electric current can be put.

The tube can shorten, lengthen, and bend in all directions.

See the full Story via external site: news.bbc.co.uk

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