The octopus's highly distributed body control prompted researchers from the University of Zurich, in Switzerland, and Kyoto University, in Japan, to create and study a sensor-laden silicone arm. The sensors detect the arm's position as it rotates, allowing the researchers to track and analyze the dynamics at play.
Nonrigid materials are typically difficult to control, so the scientists hope their calculations will lead to more-intelligent soft-robot interfaces.
"Many living things have very soft bodies, and the octopus serves as the extreme case," said Kohei Nakajima, an assistant professor at Kyoto University in the Hakubi Center for Advanced Research, who is working on the arm. "This is why many researchers, especially from bioinspired robotics, are interested in it."