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Robotics Hardware Technology

MIT Unveils Robotic Manipulator Filled With Coffee Grounds 60

An anonymous reader writes "MIT researchers have developed a highly articulated robotic manipulator based on soft materials that can harden to reposition the device. The technique is known as jamming, and it relies on pouches filled with granular material like coffee grounds; when air is removed from the pouches, they become rigid. The researchers combined jamming actuators with cables to build a manipulator resembling an elephant trunk. They say the device is low-cost, capable of grasping a variety of objects, and can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy."
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MIT Unveils Robotic Manipulator Filled With Coffee Grounds

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  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:33AM (#40049159) Homepage

    That idea has been around for a while. Several snake and trunk like cable driven robots have been built. Some are a tube around discs, with three cables arranged to pull on each disc. Each disc is then a controllable joint. Combining this with pressure, vacuum, and a jamming medium is interesting, but it's not yet clear how useful.

    And no, it's not cheap. You still have a servomotor on every cable, plus valves and an air compressor. Coffee grounds are probably a temporary choice. Something like glass or plastic beads, which won't absorb water, may last longer.

  • by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @12:34AM (#40049171) Journal

    Lame First aside, actually it is.

    If you have ever seen a vacuum-packed brick of coffee you know what this is all about. It's ROCK-HARD until you break the seal, then it all falls to dust as the air gets in the package.

  • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @07:00AM (#40050325)
    This is cheaper, because it only needs 3 servos for the entire arm, rather than 3 for each arm segment, and still maintain independent segment motion. You can lock (jam) all arm segments, release one for motion, move it (reshape that segment) while keeping the others rigid, then lock it again.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's