A robotic arm inspired by octopus tentacles was developed by a team of researchers from Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University in Beijing.
It is a robotic arm that is able to grab, move and manipulate many types of objects thanks to its suction cups and the fact that it can flex, almost twist, on itself, just like real octopus tentacles do.
The flexible tapered design means that the “arm” can have a solid grip on objects of various shapes and textures, so much so that it can also grab eggs or objects with a very delicate texture.
As August Domel, one of the authors of the robotic arm study, published in Soft Robotics, explains: “Our research is the first to quantify the tapering angles of the arms and the combined functions of bending and suction, which allows you to use a single small grip for a wide range of objects that would otherwise require the use of multiple grips”.
The secret of the robotic arm, inspired by the octopus tentacle, lies in its suction cups, true vacuum-based biomimetic vacuum cleaners that can basically stick to any surface.
The robotic arm, called the Festo Tentacle Gripper, represents the first integrated implementation of such a technology, based on suction cups inspired by octopus suction cups, in a commercial prototype.