VSL:SCIENCE // Meet the world’s first robot octopus

Italian roboticist Cecilia Laschi is trying to create the first robot without a rigid skeleton — a tiny, octopus-like machine that will boldly go where no machine has gone before.

The robotic octopus is really a more flexible version of the miniature, remote-controlled robotic submarines we’re already using to explore the oceans. But even the smallest subs are still too big to navigate the ocean’s biologically rich nooks and crannies. Hence the “artificial muscular hydrostat structures” — soft silicone arms embedded with electroactive polymers that make them stretch, stiffen, soften, or contract like real tentacles — that Laschi’s working to build. One of her colleagues calls her plan “a bit crazy.” But Laschi likes to think big — even when she’s thinking small.

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VSL:SCIENCE //  Meet the world’s first robot octopus