Robot Hands: Now With a Softer, Gentler Touch?

Yale University professor Aaron Dollar poses with a prototype robotic hand that was created in his lab. [Photo: Porter Gifford, Technology Review]

Aaron Dollar, professor of mechanical engineering at Yale and head of the GRAB Lab there, has wanted to make robotic hands not only more adaptable, but also less expensive. His latest project is a robotic hand styled after a human one. Rather than using servo motors at each joint, this hand has one motor that controls thin cables that act like tendons for the hand's fingers. Even the joints of this "hand" are soft, made of rubber rather than plastic, giving the robot hand a soft grip on whatever it touches.

The finger pads are made by pouring liquid polymers into a mold around a rod, which means that the durable finger assemblies are made in one piece. Once the rod is removed, the remaining space can be used for running cables inside the fingers. You can watch a video of the hand grabbing and picking up a cordless drill, as well as the manufacturing process.

The technology behind the hand has been licensed to Barrett Technology, which plans to make a version of this hand that you can pick up (no pun intended) in 2011. What would you do with a hand like this? Will it be used for prosthetics, or simply to help you clean up around the lab like an Iron Man-inspired robot? Let us know in the comments!

[via Technology Review]

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