The octobot can move its limbs, but it can't move across the floor. Nor can it be programmed to follow commands or detect information about its environment. The pair believe that will be the next step.
Soft robots, Wehner said, "are more like people. For translation and movement, they are more acceptable for human areas. Also in dealing with handling sensitive instruments, harvesting, picking or even handling babies, you want soft manipulation."
Soft robots more easily absorb the energy when they bump into something, rather than getting damaged, the pair noted.
Robert Shepherd, associated professor of robotics at Cornell University, said the new device, is inspirational.
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"It brings robot design closer to nature's design," he said in an e-mail. "Because the robots can have truly 3-D mechanical design and power source integration, much more sophisticated musculature can be created."
Turning this octobot into a device that can interact with humans will need a new path of development, Shepherd said.
"It doesn't appear that computer code is the answer to controlling this robot; it also isn't for biology," he said. "The answer will likely depend on chemistry and mechanical design for adaptive control. Those methods are all possible using the type of 3-D printing techniques demonstrated here."