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MIT complains that designing a robot hand is time-consuming and takes a lot of iterations. They want to improve that using a unique approach by giving a modular hand tactile sensors. They claim this can reduce the design time down to minutes for many practical applications. For example, cutting paper. You can see a video about the paper below as well as read the text itself.

Each style of manipulator has an associated graph. Predefined elements let you assemble a palm and specialized fingers. You deform the fingers to match the use of the hand. Then a sensor that looks like a mitten provides feedback fo the task.

The output of all this is STL files for printing the hand and a kitting machine pattern to produce the sensor mitten automatically. Some of the examples in the video show arms operating scissors, tightening a wing nut, and — the classic test for a robot arm, picking up an egg. They also show a robot pouring liquid from a bottle, although someone had to help it out by removing the cap first.

The finger joints include several fingertips and joints. The graphs show what pieces could connect to one another in the same way that a compiler knows what kinds of things might follow a number in a math expression. The deformation process, too, is aware of 3D printer limitations, so it produces practical shapes.

What do you want a robot hand to do? With the right arm, they could make your 3D printing pen finally useful. Or take over your soldering chores. We wonder, though, if there will be a new 4th law of robotics? Don’t run with scissors.

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