Unique robotic hand can rotate objects without releasing its grasp
While there are now a number of robotic hands that can grasp objects, it's usually impossible to change a grasped object's orientation within the hand without releasing it. A new robotic hand is able to do so, however, via its rolling fingers.
Developed by scientists from Spain's University of Malaga and Britain's University College London, the Rolling Fingers hand is made up of three articulated fingers which grasp items by closing in on them from three sides – as the fingers do so, they bend to conform to the object's contours.
Each section of each finger incorporates a rubber gripping surface, which can rotate left or right relative to the underlying structure. Therefore, by simultaneously rotating all of those surfaces in the same direction, it's possible to turn an object around within the hand while maintaining a grasp on it.
Needless to say, round objects work best. That said, the fingers can move in and out to accommodate irregularly shaped objects as they're rotated.
A four-fingered model is now in the works. It is hoped that the technology could ultimately find use in applications such as the movement and inspection of fresh produce.
"With at least three fingers providing two active degrees of freedom (grasping and axial rotation) we can create robotic graspers that are capable of moving objects in a controlled way during a single grasp," says U Malaga's Prof. Jesús M. Gómez, main author of a paper on the hand.
That paper was recently published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.