Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Harvard Scientists Create a Revolutionary Robot Octopus

A team of Harvard researchers 3D prints a fully autonomous octopus-like robot that runs on a chemical reaction.

In the popular imagination, robots are metallic, often humanoid contraptions, stuffed with wires, circuit boards, batteries, and a latent desire to destroy us. But a research team from Harvard has introduced a robot that breaks all such stereotypes. Meet “Octobot”, the soft and cute, fully autonomous robot that looks like a small octopus.

The 2.5 inch Octobot has no rigid structures in its body, made of silicone rubber. The robot is flexible, and is not tethered to anything. And it demonstrates the potential of the new field of “soft robotics”.

Professor Robert Wood, one of the research leaders, who teaches at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, described the team’s accomplishments this way:


“One longstanding vision for the field of soft robotics has been to create robots that are entirely soft, but the struggle has always been in replacing rigid components like batteries and electronic controls with analogous soft systems and then putting it all together. This research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft robot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.”


What are the applications of soft robots?

Potentially, soft robots can be useful in performing delicate tasks where a hard-bodied machine would fail or tasks where a metallic or plastic robot would present a danger to humans.

Michael Wehner, a post-doctoral fellow involved in the research, explained:

"[It could] either handle something that's very delicate, or move the body around to get into tight spaces in search and rescue, or maybe internal medicine. Something that's soft like an earthworm could crawl through the body better than something that's rigid, like a crab."

How was the Octobot created? 

Professor Jennifer A. Lewis, the co-leader of the research, elaborates:

“Through our hybrid assembly approach, we were able to 3-D print each of the functional components required within the soft robot body, including the fuel storage, power, and actuation, in a rapid manner. The octobot is a simple embodiment designed to demonstrate our integrated design and additive fabrication strategy for embedding autonomous functionality.”

The Octobot is pneumatic-based and powered by gas.

A chemical reaction inside the robot turns a small amount of liquid fuel (hydrogen peroxide) into a large volume of gas that flows into the octobot’s eight arms and inflates them. A "fluidic logic circuit" uses valves to regulate this operation.

Michael Wehner says this is the reason for their approach:

“Fuel sources for soft robots have always relied on some type of rigid components. The wonderful thing about hydrogen peroxide is that a simple reaction between the chemical and a catalyst — in this case platinum — allows us to replace rigid power sources.”

While the field of soft robotics is still emerging, other bio-inspired robot designs are on the way. Research teams are working on flying robot bees, crawling robots, and even cockroach-like robots.

You can read the research paper on the “Octobot” here, in Nature magazine.

Cover photo credit: Lori Sanders/Harvard University.

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
Keep reading Show less

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

Videos
  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation

Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast