Harvard Researchers Create Completely Soft ‘Octobot’



What has the form of an octopus, was born in a lab and is powered by oxygen gas under pressure?

Welcome to the “octobot,” the world’s first entirely soft, 3D-printed, autonomous robot created by Harvard University researchers.

The octobot “may serve as a foundation for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous robots,” the researchers wrote in a paper that appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of Nature, an international weekly journal of science.

Soft robotics is a budding field that aims to develop safer robots that can better adapt to natural environments, according to the research team led by Robert Wood and Jennifer A. Lewis, professors at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Now that the octobot has been launched, researchers are hoping to give it a greater range of behaviors.

Next steps in its development include increasing the complexity of the fluidic controller—the system built into the robot that distributes hydrogen peroxide to catalyst sites so it can produce oxygen gas, Wood told Bloomberg BNA.  The pressurized gas inflates the octobot’s arms, resulting in bending.

As for other behaviors the researchers would like to see, “The first and simplest is effective locomotion,” Wood said. So, a walking octobot? Sounds like the stuff sci-fi dreams are made of.