MIT, Harvard Scientists Create Origami-Inspired Robot Flytrap: Here's What It Can Do


Robotics developed in recent years have hands that are not able to successfully grasp certain objects around it.

Some robotic hands made with human skin-like materials can pick up delicate objects, but not heavy items. Others are capable of lifting tons of weight but fail in picking up delicate items such as an egg or grapes.

Fortunately, a group of researchers from the Harvard University Wyss Institute and the Massachusets Institute of Technology Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or MIT CSAIL, has seemingly found a way around the problem. Using a unique design for a robotic hand, their robot is able to pick up a wide variety of objects ranging from a mobile phone to a wine bottle.

Venus Flytrap And Origami-Inspired Skin

The Harvard Wyss and MIT CSAIL researchers developed a hand that looks more like a suction cup or a deflated balloon. However, it is this unusual shape that makes it useful in the experiments. Underneath the skeletal structure is a gripper made out of origami-shaped rubber skin. A connector is also attached at the gripper that sucks the air out of the gripper.

Depending on the flow of air, the robotic opens and closes like a flower. When air is sucked out of the gripper, it is capable of lifting objects of varying shapes, sizes and weights without the need of any vision system.

"Previous approaches to the packing problem could only handle very limited classes of objects - objects that are very light or objects that conform to shapes such as boxes and cylinders, but with the Magic Ball gripper system we've shown that we can do pick-and-place tasks for a large variety of items ranging from wine bottles to broccoli, grapes and eggs," said Daniela Rus, an MIT professor and one of the paper's senior author.

Potential Improvements And Use

Impressive as it seems, the robotic origami hand still has some limitations. Based on its mechanism, it may encounter problems lifting flat objects like books. If the team is capable of addressing these issues, the robotic hand may be used in the commercial and medical industries.

In the future, picking merchandise from a huge stack of items can be done easily. The innovative robotic hand may also be used in hospitals where it can pick up both delicate and heavy objects.

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