A German engineering firm has recently unveiled a starting new invention: Doctor Octopus’ arms.
They’re not calling it that of course, but Festo had revealed a working prototype of a bionic tentacle that the company has been working on for the past four years. In an article by New Scientist’s Paul Marks, the innovative device is described as “bionic elephant trunk” and was created to allow expanded dexterity and range of movement to industrial robots. Now engineers Jochen Steil and Matthias Rolf have given the tentacle the ability to learn.
“They used a process called ‘goal babbling’, thought to mimic the way a baby learns to grab things by continually reaching – a process of trial and error that lets them work out which muscles they need to move,” says New Scientist. “Similarly, the robot remembers what happens to the trunk's position when tiny changes are made to the pressure in the thin pneumatic tubes feeding the artificial muscles. This creates a map that relates the trunk's precise position to the pressures in each tube.”
These bionic tentacles bear an uncanny resemblance to the tentacles of the Marvel Comics’ super-villain Doctor Octopus. Created back in 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #3 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, these technological tentacles were originally created for industrial purposes – just like these real-life arms – but were later co-opted by Doctor Octopus for criminal purposes.
The bionic tentacle is formed entirely out of segments manufactured by a 3D printer. It is controlled by a separate pneumatic system, but the tentacle itself is a product of a 3D printer.
Back in February United States’ President Barack Obama joked that the military was building Iron Man, and it seems Germany is building their own Doctor Octopus. Need more proof? New Scientist says that German chancellor Angela Merkel has already seen the device and even held a photo-op shaking hands with the bionic tentacle.