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Robot octopus tells scientists that actual octopi are doing it wrong

Posted by Carly Carioli  May 21, 2013 02:06 PM

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First of all, let's not bury the lede, here: Holy cow, we've got a video of a robot octopus. Science, we love you.

We will also try not to think too hard about why scientists are spending a bunch of time perfecting a robot octopus. I'm sure, theoretically, someone could concoct a legit reason to build a robot octopus -- a reason, say, that has nothing to do with unleashing an army of robot octopi to kill us all. But we all understand the implication of having robot octopi laying around: if there's a robot octopus on the shelf in the first act, someone's going to get robot-octopus-strangled before the end of the third.

In any case, the scientists building the robot octopus have, necessarily, begun to investigate all of the ways to use eight robot arms to propel a thing through the water. It turns out that the way real octopi do it -- flailing all eight arms simultaneously, in a stroke known as "sculling" -- isn't necessarily the best way: "According to recent experiments, some of the artificial gaits produce much smoother movements, which may make more sense for octopus-inspired robots," reports the journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Right. So if you're wondering why actual octopi armies haven't already taken over the planet: maybe it's because they're too lazy to figure out how to use all eight arms efficiently? Let's just hope that the report, "Octopus-inspired Eight-arm Robotic Swimming by Sculling Movements," doesn't make it into octopus hands anytime soon.

As for that robot octopus army that'll be coming for your children: don't think too hard about it. And whatever you do, don't watch this other video -- of a robot octopus crawling across a swimming pool -- right before you go to bed:

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