Robotic hand uses the power of static electricity to pick up apples and iPads

A cheap robotic hand developed by a company called Grabit offers something most of the other mechanical limbs we've seen before don't: the ability to pick up objects using electrostatic attraction. Even if you're not familiar with term, you've likely encountered the phenomenon at least once. Ever rubbed a balloon on your hair for fun, so you can stick it to the wall? How about getting plastic of bits of styrofoam stuck on your hand while handling a package? Yep, that's all thanks to attraction caused by static electricity. Grabit's mechanical hand takes it step further by using powered electrodes to sustain the phenomenon, as the charge naturally disappears over time. It also has the technology to prevent dust from clinging onto the fingers.

This robotic limb wasn't made to be used by amputees, though -- it's meant for the manufacturing industry as a replacement for robots that use suction cups or other means to pick up objects. In fact, Grabit made its fingers out of flexible materials that have electrostatic properties, so it can manipulate objects of different shapes and sizes. The limb can also distribute weight more evenly than other manufacturing robots, allowing it to handle delicate materials such the components needed to assemble solar cells. Grabit presented its technology last week at the RoboBusiness conference in Boston, but if you weren't there, you can always watch how the hand works in the videos below.