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Robotic octopus tentacle will make us all suckers

The first eighth of a robotic octopus is complete, bringing us that much closer to a scientific breakthrough--and realizing one of humanity's nightmares.

The first eighth of a robotic octopus is functional and already feeling grabby.
Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Octobots are now a reality. Well, at least one-eighth of an octobot is now a reality. The team at the European Union's Italian-led Octopus Project is determined to make a soft-bodied robotic Octopus, and they're already one tentacle toward success. That's solid progress since we first reported on the four-year project back in 2009.

Although the notion of a robotic octopus has unlimited potential for Hollywood and epic practical joke applications, the project team is more interested in the scientific value. Turns out that's pretty cool, too.

The tentacles of an octopus can move in any direction and have the ability to go limp or stiffen on demand. That gives octopi some pretty unparalleled ambulatory abilities, and yes, makes them great nightmare fodder, too.

Scientists envision robotic tentacles squeezing into tight or awkward spots for underwater exploration and rescue or retrieval operations, just for starters. Miniaturizing the technology could also lead to significant advances in medicine.

The working tentacle prototype isn't so practical or terrifying just yet. It's about 17 inches, made from a combination of steel and nylon cables within a soft silicone skin. As the video below shows, it's got just enough skills to give you just a tiny dose of the creeps.

(Via Gizmag)