A reliable place to turn for mechanical inspiration is the animal kingdom. The German automation company Festo just made a robotic arm that takes its cue from an octopus. Meet the OctoGripper.
As far as grippers go, it’s hard to beat the octopus’s flexibility. Built with a soft silicone structure that can be pneumatically controlled, the device bends inward to grip an item with two rows of suction cups. These would create a vacuum allowing the gripper to hold onto objects tightly while moving quickly.
This isn’t the only thing Festo is taking from nature. The OctoGripper should be incorporated, the company says, into the BionicMotionRobot, which is inspired by an elephant’s trunk. Either of these could work side by side with humans, perhaps speeding up work. Or they could pair up with Boston Dynamics robots and start the best robotic zoo this side of Horizon: Zero Dawn.