You know robotic grippers are getting advanced when they can pick up a potato chip without crushing it. In order to do that, they need tactile sensing and proprioception -- an awareness of where they are in space. This kind of sensing has been absent in most soft robots, but now two teams from MIT have solutions that could change that. Their research may enable soft robots to better sense what they’re gripping and how much force to use.
One team built off previous research from MIT and Harvard University in which researchers developed a soft, cone-shaped robotic gripper that collapses on objects like a Venus flytrap and can pick up items 100 times its weight. The new team improved upon that “magic ball gripper” by adding sensors that allow it to pick up items as delicate as a potato chip and to classify them so the gripper can recognize them in the future.