I want a robot in my house that can clean, cook, and do laundry. That will free me up to watch movies and play Fallout 4. The catch is that robot hands today can’t really pick up fragile items like eggs, and if the robot can’t make bacon and eggs, it’s pretty much worthless to me.
Fortunately, scientists have created a new robot hand of sorts that can handle fragile and delicate items like eggs. It’s not the first soft robotic gripper, but it improves upon prior designs.
Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (EPFL) developed a soft robotic gripper made using electrode flaps. The flaps are made of five components, including a pre-stretched elastomer layer with two layers of electrodes, and two outer layers of silicon of different thicknesses. When voltage is applied, the flaps curl inwards to grip. When voltage is removed, the flaps curl outwards.
The lightweight gripper also uses electrostatic grip, this is what makes a balloon stick to a wall if you rub it on your head. The result is an ability for the flaps to lift up to 100 times their own weight and handle delicate objects without needing to know the shape of the object beforehand.
We are now one-step closer to an omelet-making robot that won’t get shell in my eggs.