Innovative Robotic Device Grasps Objects Underwater

This octopus-inspired glove provides access to objects submerged under the sea.


Innovation, Earth
Innovative Robotic Device Grasps Objects Underwater | This octopus-inspired glove provides access to objects submerged under the sea.

Scientists have invented a new tool that will make it easier to access and explore ancient sites buried under water. The octa-glove, inspired by octopuses’ suction grips, is a boon not just for underwater archaeologists, but also for rescue divers, marine biologists, salvage crews and bridge engineers, Popular Science reports.

According to Discover Magazine, the neolithic-era village of Atlil-Yam, the lost city of Thonis-Heracleion, and the Mycenaean island of Pavlopetri are three ancient locations whose artifacts have helped to transform our understanding of the ancient world. These artifacts remained undiscovered for millenia because all three places were deeply submerged under water

It is likely that there are millions of archaeological treasures, losts sites, and ancient knowledge submerged deep under oceans, lakes and rivers, waiting for humanity to rediscover.

Octopus 'smart-arms'
Octopuses manipulate objects underwater by using the array of suckers that line their eight iconic arms. When an octopus wants to grasp an object underwater, it lays its arm on the object. Then, it uses its suckers to produce a pressure difference.

The Octa-glove works in a similar way. Inside the glove’s suction cups are mini air-based motors that can create and change the pressure behind the sucker.

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In addition to the suckers on octopuses’ arms, each octopus appendage has its own mini-brain. According to Cosmos Magazine the Octa-glove mimics this with micro-LIDAR sensors. The smart sensors activate on their own, when the glove nears an object. They grasp on, without requiring the wearer to push a button.

Furthermore, the sensors automatically adjust the pressure to match the material they are grasping. Using a single sensor, the Octa-glova can grasp small metal objects, such as curved spoons and hydrogel balls. With multiple object detection sensors, the Octa-glove can easily pick up bigger objects, including plates, bowls and boxes.

“It makes handling wet or underwater objects much easier and more natural. The electronics can activate and release adhesion quickly – just move your hand toward an object, and the glove does the work to grasp. It can all be done without the user pressing a single button,” Assistant professor of mechanical engineering and research team leader Michael Bartlett told Cosmos Magazine.

Octopus biomimicry
The Octa-glove is an example of biomimicry, where human technology is modeled after other species’ abilities. And, even before scientists designed the Octa-glove, octopuses inspired several other recent inventions, Live Science reports.

For example, some octopuses can change color and camouflage by adjusting how much pigment can be seen on their skin. Scientists have leveraged this technology to create a camouflage material and a color changing robot.

Octopuses’ eight armed swimming abilities are being tested for their potential to create a more efficient propulsion system. One research laboratory is even looking into the potential to create strap-on robotic arms. They hope in the future, extra arms could help workers perform repetitive tasks, and protect their natural arms from injury.

Octopuses are multi-talented creatures and the new Octa-glove is just one way mankind hopes to leverage their extraordinary abilities to help humanity.

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