Washington - A powerful yet delicate robotic hand has been developed that can pour juice into a plastic cup with ease and lift and place an egg gently.
Pouring a drink into a plastic cup can be a great challenge for a robot, as one hand has to hold the glass bottle firmly, while the other one must gently grasp the cup.
But researchers at Saarland University, together with associates in Bologna and Naples, have developed a robotic hand that can accomplish both tasks with ease and yet, including the actuators, is scarcely larger than a human arm.
This was made possible by a novel string actuator, making use of small electric motors to twist strings.
The robotic hand is thus powerful yet delicate and could one day be deployed as a helper around the house or in catastrophic scenarios.
âWe wanted to impart our robotic hand with a broad spectrum of human traits. Its artificial muscles should be able to deliver enormous forces by simple and compact meansâ, Chris May, scientist at Saarland Universityâs Laboratory of Actuation Technology said.
It is an example of some of the new steps taken in robotic research within the scope of the European project DEXMART.
Over the past four years international scientists developed various concepts, especially focussed on increasing the versatility with which two-arm robots can be implemented.
The European Union sponsored the research consortium to the sum of 6.3 million Euros.
âWhen robots help around the house or should save people from a burning building, they need to have hands which can grasp with strength but at the same time gently,â Hartmut Janocha,
Professor of Process Automation at Saarland University said.
The challenge lies in trying to make the necessary technology fit within the robotic arm such that it does not differ significantly from a human arm in terms of size and form.
âWe came up with a simple, yet extremely effective idea: using strings that are twisted by small, high-speed motors, we are able to exert high tensile forces within a compact space,â
mechatronic researcher May said.
The sensorised and controlled robotic hand is able to touch diverse objects, to grasp and lift them and place them gently in a new position.
Chris May demonstrated this in Karlsruhe, Germany - where the hand was presented during a meeting at the Forschungszentrum Informatik - with a delicate Easter egg and a heavy glass