Robotics engineers from Harvard and Yale universities teamed up to create an interesting new robotic hand that can manipulate things in a gentle human-like way. Because every object needs to be grabbed uniquely, so as to be able to pick it up while not damaging it with a wrong grip or too hard of a squeeze, the system uses a smart sensing platform to actively adjust the fingers. Clearly this technology could find good use in robotic surgical systems, or in making hand prostheses easier and more natural to operate.
Technology Review reports:
Dollar’s [Aaron Dollar, assistant professor at Yale University –ed.] robotic hand consists of four fingers made out of a flexible, durable polymer. A single motor and spool tugs on the finger joints to open and close the hand. Each soft polymer finger contains embedded sensors, as detailed in the August 2009 online issue of Autonomous Robots. Dollar embedded two piezoelectric sensors–which report physical contact as a voltage response–into each of the four fingers through a molding process called shape deposition manufacturing (SDM). This process allows different materials to be deposited one layer at a time, so that sensors or other items can be set inside the material, which also protects those components.
The system currently employs only one type of grasp–the “power” grip, which is useful for picking up some objects, such as a soda can, a ball, or a hammer. Next, Dollar hopes to add a “precision” grip, to enable the hand to pick up smaller objects, such as a pen.
More at Technology Review…