Robots, Now with a Gentle Touch

By Anna Funk
Apr 9, 2019 5:00 PMDec 13, 2019 9:31 PM
Robot Hand Blueberry - Bao
(Credit: Courtesy Bao Lab)


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We humans take for granted our ability to pick up delicate objects — like berries — without squashing them. It’s a skill that researchers have struggled to replicate in robots. Recently, researchers at Stanford University created an “electronic glove,” worn by a robotic hand. The fingertips of the glove house sensors that mimic the nerve endings in our skin. Like our nerves, the sensors measure the direction and intensity of pressure. They then send that information to the bot’s version of a brain, so that it knows what kind of grip to use. The Stanford robot successfully picked up a pingpong ball without crushing it, but it hasn’t quite mastered the berry.

[This story originally appeared in print as "A Gentle Touch."]

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