In this paper, we introduce a novel, continuously bending “robot tongue.” The tongue replaces the existing parallel jaw gripper at the end of a KUKA industrial robot manipulator. The resulting system augments the precise positioning of the KUKA with unique capabilities for adaptive grasping afforded by the new robot tongue. We demonstrate the ability of the system to grasp and manipulate objects over a wide range of scales and geometries and evaluate the potential for use of such tongues in various applications.
This paper describes the development of the octopus biology inspired OctArm series of soft robot manipulators. Each OctArm is constructed using air muscle extensors with three control channels per section that provide two axis bending and extension. Within each section, mesh and plastic coupler constraints prevent extensor buckling. OctArm IV is comprised of four sections connected by endplates, providing twelve degrees of freedom. Performance of OctArm IV is characterized in a lab environment. Using only 4.13 bar of air pressure, the dexterous distal section provides 66% extension and 380° of rotation in less than .5 seconds. OctArm V has three sections and, using 8.27 bar of air pressure, the strong proximal section provides 890 N and 250 N of vertical and transverse load capacity, respectively. In addition to the in-lab testing, OctArm V underwent a series of field trials including open-air and in-water field tests. Outcomes of the trials, in which the manipulator demonstrated the ability for adaptive and novel manipulation in challenging environments, are described. OctArm VI is designed and constructed based on the in-lab performance, and the field testing of its predecessors. Implications for the deployment of soft robots in military environments are discussed.
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 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.