I don't know about you, but when I hear the phrase "robot octopus," all I want to do is curl up in a fetal position and rock back-and-forth. This either sounds like the beginning of one of those awesomely bad SyFy movies or Spider-Man's Doctor Octopus is coming to town. Neither of these options is good.
Luckily, my life is neither a movie nor a comic book, and robotic octopuses don't really exist. Well, the evil kind don't, at least.
Believe it or not, researchers at the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas have been studying robotic octopuses for several years. They recently made some adjustments to the "roboctopus," as some are lovingly referring to it, such as adding a silicone web in between the bot's tentacles very similar to the kind of webbing real octopuses have. Now, the robot can crawl, carry objects and swim in the Aegean Sea east of Greece.
Last year, the researchers published a paper that described their research about the octopus' gait, known as sculling. Back then, the robot had plastic tentacles, which came together abruptly rather than the smooth, flowing glide that real octopuses show when they swim.
With the silicone web additions to the robot this year, the scientists were able to double its speed in the water. The scientists were able to get the robot's speed up to 180 millimeters per second with the webbing, compared to a little more than 100 millimeters per second with just the arms. The webbing helps add thrust to the robot's swimming and make it more energy-efficient overall, according to CNET. The measurement of this efficiency, called cost of transport, went from 0.85 for the arms-only robot to 0.62 for the robot with the silicone web. Just so you know, that's pretty impressive.
The Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas captured the robot octopus' movements for our entertainment, er, in the name of science. In the video, you'll see the octopus crawl on the ground, which is something the creatures actually do. The robot also carries a yellow ball (real octopuses can also carry objects) and swims in a real-live sea. Notice how two fish unsuspectingly follow the robot through the water. This indicates that researchers may be able to use the robot to observe ocean life discreetly and without disturbing anything. But lucky for the fish in the video, this eight-legged freak is just a robot, and it's not going to go in for the kill... for now.