REHOVOT, Israel — For years, Israeli scientist Tamar Flash has been fascinated with the octopus, and the unusual way the invertebrate’s eight arms propel it effortlessly through the water.
Her interest is no mere hobby. A renowned professor who does research in artificial intelligence at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Flash is using the octopus as a model for methods of diagnosis and treatment of disorders from Parkinson’s disease to autism.
“The first generation of robots were made of steel,” Flash said. “But if we want robots to help handicapped people, we had better make them from soft materials that can come in contact with humans without injuring them.”
Modeling the movement of the octopus, she said, also may help scientists develop “soft” robots for rehabilitation clinics, search-and-rescue operations and even nursing homes.