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Octobot uses webbed arms to swim faster

Fish in Mediterranean Sea follow alongside the robot

By
5:15pm, September 17, 2014
shoe box–sized robotic octopus

UNDERWATER ROBOT  A shoe box–sized robotic octopus with arms and a web made of soft silicone can speed through the water faster than bots without a web.

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CHICAGO­ —Webbed underarms can turn a sluggish robotic octopus into a speed demon.

A squishy membrane connecting the machine’s eight arms helps the bot scoot through water nearly twice as fast as octobots without webs, researchers reported at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems on September 15.

Inspired by Octopus vulgaris, the well-known sea creature with arms connected by a fleshy, skirtlike mantle, computer scientist Dimitris Tsakiris and colleagues decided to give a makeover to the robotic octopus they had previously developed. The earlier, webless version could propel itself at up to 100 millimeters per second by slowly opening stiff plastic arms and then snapping them together.

But with arms and a web made of soft silicone, the shoe box–sized bot swam at up to 180 millimeters per second. The web helps the octobot

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