Meet Octobot, the squishy robot that moves like an octopus

A team of scientists led out of Harvard University have managed to build an entirely squishy robot — one that’s inspired by an octopus. The Octobot, described this week in the journal Nature, could pave the way toward more effective soft robots that could be used in search and rescue, exploration and to more safely interact with humans.

The palm-sized robot was built using a combination of molding for the body and 3D printing for the legs. The design is totally soft without a hard part in sight, meaning there’s no conventional circuits or batteries. It’s actually powered by gas, which Octobot can autonomously direct around its artificial body.

“The octobot is a minimal system designed to demonstrate our integrated design and fabrication strategy,” the study authors wrote, “which may serve as a foundation for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous robots.”

Octobot may not be commercially exploited but it opens a new way we view at robotics.

“This research is a proof of concept,” said Harvard grad student and researcher Ryan Truby. “We hope that our approach for creating autonomous soft robots inspires roboticists, material scientists and researchers focused on advanced manufacturing,”

Octobot is just the first step toward creating more advanced and capable robots, researchers said; its capabilities are pretty limited. But designing and building more complex robots will mean integrating several different materials and improving many different abilities, including movement, power and control  and octobot shows that it can be done.

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