By David Ponce
Paving the way for the day we will watch professional sports played out not by overpriced humans but rather waiting-to-annihilate us robots, the Positive Pressure Universal Gripper performs some neat tricks that have us awed right now, but will have us running when the balls get replaced with bullets. Or something. Setting the overused “robots are going to kill us one day” trope aside, this robotic arm from Cornell’s Creative Machines Lab is tipped with a gripper that functions very differently than most robotic grippers. It’s an elastic balloon filled with a sandlike material. When placed over an object, the soft balloon conforms to its shape. The air is then sucked out and the balloon hardens around the object. Once air is quickly pumped back in, the object can be thrown with a fair amount of precision. Watch the video to see the robot get nothing but net with a few baseballs and a pretty tight cluster in darts.
While the intended use is not to throw things around, the video does demonstrates the new gripper’s capabilities which include: “performance increases of up to 85% in reliability, 25% in error tolerance, and the added capability to shoot objects by fast ejection.”