Robotic tentacles get to grips with tricky objects

By | May 15, 2006

Robotic tentacles get to grips with tricky objects

Robotic “tentacles” that can grasp and grapple with a wide variety of objects have been developed by US researchers.

Most robots rely on mechanical gripping jaws that have difficulty grabbing large or irregularly shaped objects. Replacing these with tentacle-like manipulators could make robots more nimble and flexible, say the scientists.

The tentacle-like manipulators, known as “Octarms”, resemble an octopus’s limb or an elephant’s trunk. They were developed through a project called OCTOR (sOft robotiC manipulaTORs), which involves several US universities and is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“An elephant’s trunk can pick up a peanut or a tree trunk,” says Ian Walker, a member of the project team from Clemson University in South Carolina. “This ability, inherent in the OCTOR robots, gives OCTOR arms a huge advantage over conventional industrial robots.”

Just like a real tentacle, an Octarm simply wraps itself around an object in order to manoeuvre it. This allows it to grasp objects of various sizes and shapes and could let robots deal with unpredictable real-world situations, the researchers say. – newssci

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