Just because humans have fingers doesn’t mean that robots need to have them too.
Researchers have developed a new type of robotic hand – a soft gripping mechanism that stiffens when air is sucked out.
The hand is essentially a latex balloon filled with ground coffee (because the grounds are both lightweight and pliable). Its softness allows the robot hand to conform to the shape of hard objects.
The mechanism includes a a vacuum, which, when applied, allows the hand to contract and harden, to grip objects. When the vacuum is released, the hand also releases its grip. Objects that may be difficult for humans to pick up, such as a raw egg or a coin, can be easily grasped by the robot hand’s grip.
The DARPA-funded project has significant applications, including being used with prosthetic limbs, as well as with robots that would dismantle explosive devices or move potentially dangerous objects.