This grabber claw was inspired by the terrifying mouths of sea urchins

In addition to their pointy and painful spines, sea urchins have another impressive part of their anatomy: their mouths. A team of engineers at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego have created a grabbing claw inspired by the mouth of the sea urchin, and in particular its highly durable reinforced teeth. The urchin-mouth claw could be instrumental in collecting ground samples from planets like Mars.

Sea urchin mouths are incredibly durable in large part because of the rugged environment they inhabit. Each of a sea urchin’s teeth is reinforced with a keel — a t-shaped structure that reduces stress on the tooth to increase longevity and durability. That’s how sea urchins can dig through the rocky terrain of the ocean floor, uprooting forests of kelp without being sidelined by the rocks or other obstacles that would stop other animals.

The UC San Diego engineers scanned a sample of pink sea urchins from the Pacific Ocean using three-dimensional microscopy imaging. From the 3D scan, they were able to build an accurate model of a typical sea urchin’s mouth and teeth, which led to a series of 3D prototypes of their claw invention. Their first prototype was extremely close to the sea urchin’s natural mouth, which enabled it to grind up tough rocks, but it missed finer particles like sand. A second prototype scooped up sand better thanks to flattened tooth ends, but the natural opening and closing motion that categorizes sea urchin grasping was out of whack.

Finally, the engineers kept the flattened teeth but reattached them to the base of the grabbing claw to allow for smoother opening and closing motions. Each of the prototypes was 3D printed, so making changes was a quick and precise process. The UC San Diego engineers hope that NASA or SpaceX might take notice of their tech, since they envision it being attached to rovers to collect soil samples from other planets.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Do these case images confirm a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the S10 E?

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.