● Researchers are developing a robotic arm with improved dexterity and flexibility. The head of corporate design at the company developing the device says that the new arm “goes far beyond anything currently available in industrial automation.” What was the source of inspiration? “The nature of the elephant’s trunk,” he says.

Consider: Weighing some 300 pounds (140 kg), the elephant’s trunk has been called “the most versatile and useful appendage on the planet.” The multipurpose tool can serve as a nose, a straw, an arm, or a hand. With it, the elephant can breathe, smell, drink, grab, or even trumpet a deafening blast!

But that is not all. The elephant’s trunk has some 40,000 muscle fibers that allow it to move in any direction. Using the tip of its trunk, the elephant can pick up a small coin. At the same time, the elephant can use its trunk to lift loads of up to some 600 pounds (270 kg)!

Researchers hope that imitating the dexterous properties of the elephant’s trunk will help them develop superior robots for both domestic and industrial use. “We have created a completely new assistance system compared to conventional robots,” says a representative from the company mentioned earlier, “which for the first time enables humans and machines to work together efficiently and without danger.”

What do you think? Did the elephant’s trunk develop by means of evolution? Or was it designed?