iRobot's DARPA-funded mechanical hand can take a beating, lift 50 pounds

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Most companies might think twice about inflicting blunt force trauma upon their carefully crafted prototypes, but most companies just don't love baseball the way iRobot does. While developing a mechanical hand for DARPA's Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program, iRobot took a metal baseball bat to its three-fingered prototype. No need to cringe, though -- the artificial appendage came away virtually unscathed. The hand's durability comes from its flexible feelers, fingers molded from soft polymers with embedded tactile sensors. Rather than bending at metallic joints, these digits are pulled tight by inexpensive cables made from fishing line -- not only can they take a beating, but should one snap, they're easy to replace. The soft fingers can pick up small objects, such as keys or credit cards and can hold about 50 pounds before slipping up. The hand's current iteration is in use on a DARPA test robot, but you can see the prototype take its licks in the video after the break.

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