A flexible way to grab items with feeling: Engineers develop a robotic gripper with rich sensory capabilities

The GelSight Fin Ray gripper holds a glass Mason jar with its tactile sensing. Credit: MIT CSAIL.

The notion of a large metallic robot that speaks in monotone and moves in lumbering, deliberate steps is somewhat hard to shake. But practitioners in the field of soft robotics have an entirely different image in mind—autonomous devices composed of compliant parts that are gentle to the touch, more closely resembling human fingers than R2-D2 or Robby the Robot.

That model is now being pursued by Professor Edward Adelson and his Perceptual Science Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence …

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