Continuum robot arms inspired by cephalopods
Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology VII
In this paper, we describe our recent results in the development of a new class of soft, continuous backbone ("continuum") robot manipulators. Our work is strongly motivated by the dexterous appendages found in cephalopods, particularly the arms and suckers of octopus, and the arms and tentacles of squid. Our ongoing investigation of these animals reveals interesting and unexpected functional aspects of their structure and behavior. The arrangement and dynamic operation of muscles and
... scles and connective tissue observed in the arms of a variety of octopus species motivate the underlying design approach for our soft manipulators. These artificial manipulators feature biomimetic actuators, including artificial muscles based on both electro-active polymers (EAP) and pneumatic (McKibben) muscles. They feature a "clean" continuous backbone design, redundant degrees of freedom, and exhibit significant compliance that provides novel operational capacities during environmental interaction and object manipulation. The unusual compliance and redundant degrees of freedom provide strong potential for application to delicate tasks in cluttered and/or unstructured environments. Our aim is to endow these compliant robotic mechanisms with the diverse and dexterous grasping behavior observed in octopuses. To this end, we are conducting fundamental research into the manipulation tactics, sensory biology, and neural control of octopuses. This work in turn leads to novel approaches to motion planning and operator interfaces for the robots. The paper describes the above efforts, along with the results of our development of a series of continuum tentacle-like robots, demonstrating the unique abilities of biologically-inspired design.