“Octopus arms have a built-in mechanism that prevents the suckers from grabbing octopus skin,” says Guy Levy (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), the lead author of the work, which appears today in Current Biology. Their article has received a huge interest from the media such as Nature, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, IBT, The Scientist, National Geographic, The Verge, International Science Times, Arutz Sheva.
Research by Professor Binyamin Hochner and his team is of great importance for the EU-funded project STIFF-FLOP focussing on the development of surgical robots that are soft and flexible, and can, in addition, adjust their stiffness, as required for a wide range of surgical procedures. These new tools are expected to be inherently safe and as such represent an important step forward in minimally invasive surgery – up to now dominated by rigid, surgical tools that have great limitations when required to bend in order to reach targets behind other organs and are even known to damage healthy organs at times. Professor Kaspar Althoefer, Director of the the Centre for Robotics Research in the Department of Informatics, King’s College London and coordinator of the STIFF-FLOP project says: “With the long term aim of making use of multiple surgical tools modelled after octopus tentacles, we will at some point need to address the issue of multi-structure navigation and coordination. Here, the findings by our collaborating colleagues at HUJI could be extremely valuable to provide us with a biologically inspired solution to keep the tentacle-like robots apart while the tentacle tips are coordinated in their actions to perform an operation, possibly at a point very deep inside a patient’s anatomy.” STIFF-FLOP’s project manager Dr Helge Wurdemann adds: “We are very excited by these developments and hope to model the found reflex mechanisms using computer algorithms and to apply those to multiple soft robots working conjointly to avoid entanglement. We believe that this technology can be developed alongside our work on creating soft, stiffness-controllable robot devices and will find application in the field of robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery.