Robotic hands are usually just that -- hands
-- but some researchers from the University of Chicago and Cornell University (with a little help from iRobot
) have taken a decidedly different approach for their so-called universal robotic gripper. As you can see above, the gripper is actually a balloon that can conform to and grip just about any small object, and hang onto it firmly enough to pick it up. What's the secret? After much testing, the researchers found that ground coffee was the best substance to fill the balloon with -- to grab an object, the gripper simply creates a vacuum in the balloon (much like a vacuum-sealed bag of coffee), and it's then able to let go of the object just by releasing the vacuum. Simple, but it works. Head on past the break to check it out in action.