Soft, biologically inspired robots have become one of the fieldâ€™s most exciting offshoots, with machines that are capable of squeezing between obstacles and conforming to the world around them. A joint project between MIT CSAIL and Harvardâ€™s Wyss converts those learnings into a simple, soft robotic gripper capable of handling delicate objects and picking up things up to 100x its own weight.
The gripper itself is made of an origami-inspired skeletal structure, covered in either fabric or a deflated balloon. Itâ€™s a principle the team recently employed on another project designed to create low-cost artificial muscles. A connector attaches the gripper to the arm and also sports a vacuum tube that sucks air out from the gripper, collapsing it around an object.
Like Soft Roboticsâ€™ commercial gripper, the malleable nature of the device means it grab hold of a wide range of different objects with less need for a complex vision system. It also means that it can grab hold of delicate items without damaging them in the process.
â€œPrevious approaches to the packing problem could only handle very limited classes of objects — objects that are very light or objects that conform to shapes such as boxes and cylinders, but with the Magic Ball gripper system weâ€™ve shown that we can do pick-and-place tasks for a large variety of items ranging from wine bottles to broccoli, grapes and eggs,â€� MIT professor Daniela Rus says in a release tied to the news. â€œIn other words, objects that are heavy and objects that are light. Objects that are delicate, or sturdy, or that have regular or free form shapes.â€�
Source: Techcrunch Disrupt