The universal jamming gripper is a piece of tech that has been demoed some time ago, which allows for picking up somewhat more intricately designed objects with much care and precision. It basically boils down to a sort of balloon, filled with small particles (think grains of sand or the like) which is pushed gently against the object you wish to pick up, so that it moulds to the outer shape of that object. After that, the air gets sucked out of the balloon, thus making the shape it is in permanent. At this point, the object is sort of “embedded” into the griper and can be moved around without causing it any harm. You can watch a video of the prototype to get a better sense of what I’m trying to describe.
So that’s cool and all, but at that stage the gripper prototype was still not being used to it’s full potential. But of course, the good folks at Cornell University and the University of Chicago did not stop there and very recently I’ve come across a much more enticing demonstration of the gripper’s new capabilities: by using positive pressure, as well as vacuum-induced negative pressure, it is now able to shoot some hoops and throw some darts. Now that’s progress!
I’ve blogged about another cool application of technology over at OneOverZero: robotic legs. This is a stripped-down version of the full exoskeleton that’s being developed for the military, but for this to have become an actual product for “regular people” is, I think, very important. Technology can improve our lives in myriad ways, but we have to fight our basic urge to resist it and this, because of the “look & feel” of the legs, is probably going to be a very important step towards full acceptance of bionic technologies in our everyday lives.
All hail the cyborg!