Soft Robotics: Bio-Inspiration

I’ve always been drawn to the octopus. Octopuses are creatures of remarkable intelligence that seem to have evolved a number of really novel solutions for vision, camouflage, movement, and dexterity.

A few things I found most interesting:

  • Camouflage: Octopuses have special pigment cells in their skin called chromatophores, which can change color to mimic both the color, pattern of texture of their surroundings.
  • Movement: Octopuses are their own jet propulsion laboratories: they get around by sucking in a water, and then quickly expelling the water. They also sometimes use their arms (and the attached suction cups) to crawl along surfaces.
  • Dexterity: Octopus arms, covered in suction cups, are remarkably dexterous. Each is capable of moving independently and has the ability to grip and manipulate objects. These capacities make octopuses surprisingly proficient at physical puzzle mechanisms.

There’s a lot of inspiration to draw from octopuses. Possible technologies:

  • “Decentralized” grip actuators, capable of independent control but reporting back to central server.
  • Suction as a mechanism for vertical or gravity-independent movement
  • Small, multiple suction cups for small object manipulation