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Robot Octopus Swims Freely in the Aegean Sea

A robot octopus is making waves after video footage of it crawling, grabbing a ball and swimming in the Aegean Sea was recently unveiled. The researchers in Greece who created the robot, led by computer scientist Dimitris Tsakiris, found a way to nearly double its speed and boost its efficiency from last year. The secret: a silicone web inspired by Octopus vulgaris, which is not a Harry Potter spell but instead an octopus species common to the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to its web, the robot can now reach speeds of up to 180 millimeters (7 inches) a second — much faster than the 100 millimeters (4 inches) a second the web-less version of the octopus could reach. The footage shows it moving through the sea as tiny fish swim around it, creating hopes that it could one day aid researchers who want collect data without disturbing wildlife. The video and the research was unveiled last week at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Chicago. No word on whether the mechanical octopus gets along with its cousins, the robotic fish, crab and jellyfish.

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— Keith Wagstaff