Colour-Changing, Glow In The Dark Robo-Squids Could Help Rescue Workers, Surgeons

Colour-Changing, Glow In The Dark Robo-Squids Could Help Rescue Workers, Surgeons

Harvard University sure loves its artificial cephalopods. First it was building them out of rat cells and now they have one that can change colours, glow in the dark and… squirm.

As this article in the Harvard Gazette explains, the researchers have been working for about a year on “soft robotics” and “dynamic colouration”, the culmination being the stretchy white entity in the image above (and this video here).

Harvard chemistry and chemical biology fellow Stephen Morin expands on the benefits of squishy bots over their solid brethren:

“These robots would have advantages in terms of manipulation, manufacturing, fabrication and cost over traditional hard robots most people are familiar with … one of the remarkable things that they [squids, octopi, etc] can do is that they can change their colour and appearance and they do this to signal one another, to blend in with their environment … it was a pretty natural evolution to include some of these aspects in our robots.

As for practical applications, Morin says the “display aspect” of the soft robots can be used to show different colours for different meanings and even be glow in the dark to “guide rescue workers to a specific location”. He also mentions that surgeons would find them useful; he doesn’t elaborate, though it’s easy to imagine microscopic versions of these guys floating in your blood stream doing good stuff to your body.

I can imagine a few other positives — less moving parts, versatility, smaller sizes and weights… and those are off the top of my head. Please continue with your Gibson/Lovecraftian work, Harvard boffins!

[Harvard Gazette]