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Balloon filled with ground coffee makes ideal robotic gripper (physorg.com)
140 points by cwan on Oct 26, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

On a touch device, I can barely find a place to scroll that page w/o clicking an ad. Here's the non-blog spam and ad-free source: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Oct10/UniversalGripper.h...

I have always found it amazing that the most complex problems can be solved with solutions so simple that it takes us a while to figure them out.

This looks great, and I can imagine it on all kind of robots.

Well, yeah, but this isn't all that simple. It just seems simple.

Coffee grounds, balloon, vacuum source ==

Robotic hand that can pick up:

An Egg

A shock absorber


A coin

Simplicity Rules!

If I were an investor I would use my capital to fund better-smelling robots, like this one.

Pluck on, grippy coffee-scented robot. Pluck on.

I have greatly enjoyed sucking the air out of plastic bags filled with all sorts of materials... This "jamming" effect has been used in all sorts of applications, and it's the second robotic application I've seen. This is great... I only wish I had thought of it first... in my experience I would try a less constrictive outer casing.. thin plastic produce bags work better than you would expect.

Polyethylene bags would be too slick. Even with the conforming shape and rigidity from the vacuum, the glass of water shown in one of the photos would have slipped out of the grip. Latex is a much "stickier" surface.

So, was I the only one to wonder if "latex party balloon" might be a ... euphemism? :) Looking at the video I no longer think so, though.

I wouldn't be surprised if they tried using condoms, too. Non-lubricated, of course, but maybe ribbed for the robot's pleasure?

This distributes the forces just as evenly as a beanbag distributes your butt force. I needed a tool that evenly distributed forces when applied to muscles and a tiny beanbag in front of plates that roughly approximate the surface is what I came up with.

Upvoted for finding a legitimate use for the phrase "butt force"

There was something really similar to this (if not the same thing) that came out of University of Chicago recently.


Physicists are calling these materials 'granular media' - and there is a ton of research going into that field right now.

Chicago and Cornell (and iRobot) are collaborators on this project. That's why there was "something similar" from Chicago recently ;)

Vac Man (http://io9.com/329398/vac+man-was-one-space-monster-who-suck...) has come to life! Cool to see this being used in a practical application.

This could be very useful for relatively low-cost prosthetics. All you need from the user is an arm to mount it on and the ability to control vacuum on and off.

...and a vacuum source. And a power source for the vacuum. And a way to keep the sound under 90 dB.

Plus, you always have some coffee around when you suddenly crave caffeine ;-)

I love how he describes it as "a mass of granular material encased in a latex membrane". I bet that looks really nice when typeset with latex :)

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