This Robotic Claw Gently Captures Sea Life Without Harming Them

Cultivating jellyfish in labs is difficult, so scientists have searched for years for a way to collect deep sea samples without hurting them. This origami-like robot could be the eureka moment.

  • Video: Wyss Institute at Harvard

Fluorescent proteins from jellyfish have helped scientists discover a wealth of information about the human body. Since the 1960s, they have been used to illuminate brain circuits, to track cancer cells, and to highlight the way in which pancreatic cells produce insulin. Dr David Gruber is a marine biologist at the University of New York's Baruch College who is passionate about exploring the enigmatic world of the jellyfish in its infinite variety.

Video: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Video Duration

Since cultivating jellyfish in laboratories is extremely difficult, he has been searching for years for a way to collect deep sea samples without hurting them. The RAD sampler is the eureka moment in his quest.

In 2014 he started collaborating with Robert Wood, a Harvard University roboticist, on soft robotics, creating what were – in effect – squishy fingers to harvest delicate specimens. Then Zhi Ern Teoh, a post-doctoral researcher, refined the idea, creating the origami-like robot in this video that is automated to fold itself around creatures without hurting them. RAD stands – not particularly snappily – for ‘Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron’. Yet there should be no mistaking quite how significant an advance it represents in being able to collect deep sea creatures, register their data, and then release them to continue their lives.

Articles

Further Reading

Up Close: Walls

Paris-based photographer Gael Turine captures a highly visible symbol of inequality in the Peruvian capital.

Up Close: The Jump

The Holmenkollen ski jump was first opened in 1892, and quickly became one of Norway's iconic landmarks. David Ryle follows some of the skiers taking on the challenge.

The Poem Pavilion

British designer’s Stephen Hawking-influenced structure will use artificial intelligence to generate poetry.

Hope After Destruction

Shining a light onto Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, a remarkable Polish female architect whose work defined a bold new era.

Surviving Afghanistan

Realising that cultural understanding was his ticket to staying alive, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley looks back to his precarious time leading 15 soldiers through Helmand in the lead up to the war.

Up Close: Astra 3B

Simon Norfolk is the first artist to have been invited to watch the production and launch of a satellite from start to finish. He presents his unique perspective from the viewing station for the Astra 3B.
Browse by Category