Did You See This?

Pickup Artists

Researchers invent an amazing (and gentle) robotic gripper.

In the video above, scientists from Microsystems for Space Technologies and Laboratory of Intelligent Systems show off a new robotic gripper that could one day become some lucky android’s finger. What’s amazing about their invention, specifically, is that by combining flexible silicone sheets with electrodes, they’ve created a gripper that’s strong enough to pick up heavy objects—while also being gentle enough to pick up the most delicate.

Each gripper is made up of two triangular silicone “fingers,” with a pair of stretchable electrodes embedded in each. A finger’s first electrode bends the silicone to fit the shape of the object, and the second causes the silicon to close in, wrapping around the object and gripping it using electro-adhesion.

Electrodes have been used for shaping and gripping before, but the developers say that combining the two types of electrodes in a single gripper represents a breakthrough in robotics.  

Something flat? Something egg-shaped? No problem. The scientists say their gripper can grab anything, making it a useful for any number of things, be it as an appendage for a companion robot, for grabbing product in food-industry production lines, or even, someday, for snatching up loose debris in space.