Most artists will say that that hardest part of drawing a human being is the hands. I would imagine that making the hands of a robot are an equally daunting task, but some new developments by the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech could make it easier.
Their project, called the Raphael (Robotic Air-Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments) is a hand made of transparent plastic fingers, equipped with rubber knuckles. These knuckles are like accordions, and compressed air causes them to “flex”.
Microcomputers in this robotic hand allow each finger to figure out how strong to flex. If you want a demonstration of Raphael’s selective strength, watch this YouTube video after the jump. You can see that Raphael can hold a light bulb and an egg as easy as delicately as a human can.
The video shows the hand clutching a can, but oddly enough, it doesn’t show it crushing the can. Man, that would have been the first thing I would tried if I had my own robotic hand.
Well, the students who have built this have won a contest sponsored by the Cleveland-based Compressed Air and Gas Institute. I would imagine that this hand could be used for prosthetics and robotics.