Octo-Bot Arms

Watch out WALL-E, there’s a new WAVE of robots coming!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying…

What has eight arms that move like liquid and can reach into cracks between rocks?! 

An octopus of course! But robots? Forget about it! With rigid joints and bulky motors, traditional robotic arms struggle to fit into tight spaces. Can we build a better bot?

Shuai Wu from The Ohio State University and colleagues began tinkering.

They engineered a robotic arm using an origami technique. It consists of magnetic plates connected by sections of foldable plastic – like an accordion. The researchers placed the prototype into a controllable magnetic field. Then they tested whether it could be moved by changing the surrounding magnetic field. 

Results? Manipulating the magnetic field successfully moved the arm — like the strings of a puppet! The robot bent, twisted, and extended in every direction, mimicking a real octopus arm!

Bulky motors be gone! By getting into hard-to-reach places, these robots could be candidates for new medical devices!

AND for retrieving the car keys I dropped between the car seats! 

Reference: Wu, S., Ze, Q., Dai, J., Udipi, N., Paulino, G. H., & Zhao, R. (2021). Stretchable origami robotic arm with omnidirectional bending and twisting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(36), e2110023118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2110023118