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Robotics

Does the Octopus Hold the Key To Robot Design? 347

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the or-are-they-just-a-bunch-of-slime dept.
balancedi writes "Simultaneously controling 8 jointless arms without getting them all tangled up is a neat trick that octopuses do with ease. According to a National Geographic article several researchers from around the world think understanding the octopus holds to key to the optimal robot design."
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Does the Octopus Hold the Key To Robot Design?

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  • by Speare (84249) on Friday February 11, 2005 @12:47PM (#11643030) Homepage Journal
    The fact that an octopus doesn't get tangled up is probably related to the fact that the arms are (1) smooth, (2) pliable, (3) slippery, (4) oiled/lubricated, (5) immersed in a fluid. The way the arm tapers from large to small probably has some value here, too.

    What do you think hair conditioner does? It mostly lubricates the hair strands so it won't get traction and kink up onto other strands.

    Are we going to build tentacle robots that are oozing oil along their smooth plasticene actuators? I think I've seen a few Japanese cartoons along this motif...

  • by Red Weasel (166333) on Friday February 11, 2005 @12:56PM (#11643166) Homepage
    when an Octopus is in motion( not hunting or fighting) only the Body decides whereto go. All of the legs get there as THEY see fit without any effort from the octopus.

    So basically the head says move and the legs figure out for themselves how to do it.

  • by SamSim (630795) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:04PM (#11643244) Homepage Journal
    ...but last time I checked, the plural of "octopus" was "octopi", right?
  • by 10000000000000000000 (809085) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:06PM (#11643283)
    to keep the arms from constantly tangling themselves up, each arm has an independent peripheral nervous system and neural circuitry

    Interesting. This seems somewhat like the honda robot Asimo, in that Asimo also doesn't have just a single "brain" but rather a single primary processing unit and smaller controller units for each of his joints.
  • by BrettJB (64947) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:11PM (#11643339)
    From the article:
    Earlier research funded by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) suggests that, to keep the arms from constantly tangling themselves up, each arm has an independent peripheral nervous system and neural circuitry (see related-story link below). This allows the brain to essentially give a command--"Arm Four, fetch that tasty crab crawling by"--and have the arm carry out the order without the brain thinking about it again.


    Sounds like good management to me. Management (the octopus) assigns a task to one of their reports (arms). Tell them what to do, but don't micromanage the task.

    Or, it sounds like encapsulation. Pass just enough information to the Arm object to communicate the task, and allow Arm's private methods handle the detals of how that task is accomplished.
  • Octopi have one major advantage over 8-armed robots: they are alive, and have brains, something like muscles and neurons to go between. If we could make a robot that had a brain, muscles and neurons, I doubt we would care much about giving it 8 arms and watching it move them around without tying them in a knot. The octopus just has to think to itself, "don't tie my arms in a knot", like each of us does every day, and voila, no arm knots.
  • Re:True Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by homerito (591887) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:27PM (#11643556)
    I seriously think that octopuses belong to the sea and they are not pets. I consider pets dogs and cats because they have been genetically modified (by us trought thousands of years) to be our companions.

    Please leave the octopuses, lizards, snakes, iguanas, guacamayas, cacatuas, monkeys and others where they belong.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:27PM (#11644337) Homepage Journal
    Nope. The plural of pus is pedae, so if you want to be a pompous dick, you would say "octopedae" --

    But, since octopus is actually an English word (regardless of where we got it from -- we borrow words, not grammar structures), it takes the regular plural of all English words that end in an -s, -es.

    C'mon. Is the plural of sauna saunaa or saunat? A lot of our words come from other languages. If we have to adopt their pluarlization rules, that would be a nightmare laundry list of irregular plurals.

  • Re:True Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Politburo (640618) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:56PM (#11644739)
    I seriously think that octopuses belong to the sea and they are not pets. I consider pets dogs and cats because they have been genetically modified (by us trought thousands of years) to be our companions.

    Sorry, but that doesn't make a damn bit of sense. It's either right or it's wrong to have an animal as a pet. You can't say "oh well our ancestors made these animals pets so they're okay."

    If our ancestors had your attitude, we wouldn't have dogs, cats, cows, pigs, donkeys, horses, chickens, etc., as we know them.

    So long as the animal is not threatened/endangered, it's captivity poses minimal risk to other living organisms (this includes humans, other animals and plants), and the habitat provided is proper, I don't see any reason to place arbitrary restrictions on what animals can be pets.
  • Re:True Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PatientZero (25929) on Friday February 11, 2005 @03:45PM (#11645339)
    I think the point is that dogs and cats derive pleasure from being companions to humans (my assumption from observing all of my pets over the years) while other animals haven't been domesticated similarly. True, you can say that our ancestors harmed the original cats and dogs by domesticating them, but they are long since dead, and their offspring benefit from being around humans and we benefit from them.

    I don't think this carries over to farm animals simply because we kill and eat them! Maybe the animals on old-school family farms where the animals are treated humanely and then killed swiftly with respect live happy lives, but today's factory farms are sick and demented. The animals are tormented from birth to slaughter. If you haven't, check out The Meatrix. [themeatrix.com]

  • Re:True Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday February 11, 2005 @04:32PM (#11645941) Homepage Journal
    Intelligence- yes. Sentience- not sure. We know octopi have intelligence. We know they have manipulation abilities. But the third requirement for Sentience is communication- anybody have any examples of one octopi teaching another octopi something?

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