The researchers attached woodlice and sea molluscs to a robot arm to show how the creatures could work with the robots. Robots can use living invertebrates as grippers, helping them pick up awkward objects or grasp things underwater.

“We don’t think of this as a replacement for robotics, but as a new direction or a new way for both biology and robotics,” said Josephine Galipon of Japan’s Tohoku University.

Researchers have previously experimented with using live insects to control robots or dead spiders as robot grippers. Galipon and his colleagues have now made grippers using woodlice and molluscs that can stick to rocks as suction cups.

The team made custom 3D-printed housings for both organisms and attached them to the robotic arm. The woodlice held the piece of cotton in their grip for about 2 minutes before releasing it. The molluscs picked up cork, wood, and plastic cylinders underwater, but did not release the objects easily.

Although the release mechanisms still need further development, the mollusk’s ability to pick up cork and wood is a progress, as this is difficult task with suction cups commonly used in underwater robotic grapples.

Source: New Scientist