Why is science out to get me?
I mean, okay - if I'm being frank, it's really kind of out to get all of us, but I felt especially attacked when I happened upon some really cool research out of Harvard earlier this week. Specifically, this nightmare fuel robot:
I feel like tentacles and terrifying go hand in...uh. "Hand in hand" probably isn't the right phrase here. I'm too disturbed to make a pun, which is saying something! Literally the tentacles could be any other color, but no, they just had to go with a fleshy pink that - at least to me - reminds me of one of my most loathed enemies in all of Fantasy: The Illithid (AKA: Mind Flayer).
A Baldur's Gate 3 Mind Flayer
In all honesty, even though the robot looks like a deranged version of a Mind Flayer, the intent behind its design has the potential to change a great deal. The versatility of a human's hand comes from its ability to apply a gentle touch to a frail or oddly shaped object. This is something that is often difficult to replicate in robots, particularly when they are functioning autonomously.
This unorthodox gripper design takes inspiration from creatures like octopi or jellyfish (and Mind Flayers!) and relies on groups of long tentacles and filaments to wrap around its target. The artificial tentacles are made from hollow rubber tubes that are limp and lifeless when empty. When pumped with air, however, they become pressurized and will curl up, gripping whatever happens to be within them when they do so.
Collectively, the grip is fairly strong, though individually each tentacle has a pretty weak grip, so there's concern that more fragile objects could be damaged. Releasing the pressurized air will also cause whatever object is in their hold to drop. Obviously there are some issues to work out, but these first steps in the research process are promising for automation in the future.
It will be interesting to see where their design ideas and innovation take this concept in the future! For my part, I will be watching warily, ready to battle against the robot overlords when they rise up with their unnerving pink tentacles. What about you?