In the video above, scientists from Microsystems for Space Technologies and Laboratory of Intelligent Systems show off a new robotic gripper that could one day become some lucky android’s finger. What’s amazing about their invention, specifically, is that by combining flexible silicone sheets with electrodes, they’ve created a gripper that’s strong enough to pick up heavy objects—while also being gentle enough to pick up the most delicate.
Each gripper is made up of two triangular silicone “fingers,” with a pair of stretchable electrodes embedded in each. A finger’s first electrode bends the silicone to fit the shape of the object, and the second causes the silicon to close in, wrapping around the object and gripping it using electro-adhesion.
Electrodes have been used for shaping and gripping before, but the developers say that combining the two types of electrodes in a single gripper represents a breakthrough in robotics.
Something flat? Something egg-shaped? No problem. The scientists say their gripper can grab anything, making it a useful for any number of things, be it as an appendage for a companion robot, for grabbing product in food-industry production lines, or even, someday, for snatching up loose debris in space.