Shape-shifting robot can grip differently-shaped items

Video link. The Jambot is a shape-changing robotic prototype being developed by a team led by University of Chicago Physicist Heinrich Jaeger and his group through a DARPA initiative. Also involved is iRobot, the company best known for the Roomba.

He and [colleague Eric] Brown have designed a gripper using jamming and flexible structures that could replace a robotic claw. A typical claw needs hinges, motors, and feedback sensors to prevent it from crushing the object it's trying to hold, and the computational power to operate them. But Jaeger's jamming-based gripper is more like a beanbag, flowing around the object and then holding it gently. "We came at this from a completely different perspective," he says, "looking for a way to short-circuit this inherent complexity."

Previous BB coverage. For those want to try a HOWTO, Carlos Asmat, Jr. has a cool web entry and video of his DIY version of the gripper using a balloon, tubing, cloth, a rubber band, and ground coffee.

(via University of Chicago Magazine)