Harvard Automated Tentacle Clutch is pure nightmare fuel

Part of the versatility of the human hand’s ability to pick up almost anything comes from the ability to apply a gentle touch to fragile or oddly shaped objects. This is something robots struggle with, especially when working independently, and unfortunately the solution can lie in Unconventional clutch design who – which It looks straight out of a horror movie.

It seems appropriate that researchers from Harvard John A. School Paulson Engineering and Applied Sciences You should reveal a new clutch design that’s so close to Halloween as it takes inspiration from exotic marine creatures like octopuses and jellyfish that rely on combinations of tentacles and long whiskers to trap and consume prey. The giant squid has always been a mysterious creature of ocean lore, so why not recreate one in a lab setting?

Taking inspiration from animals to build robots designed to accomplish a specific task is far from a new idea. The human hand can be incredibly deceptive, but its capabilities are extremely difficult to replicate with a robot. The clutches, on the other hand, are not, and their simplicity is key to how this clutch design works.

A shiny clutch appears wrapped around a succulent plant.

Synthetic probes are made of hollow, foot-length rubber tubes, one side of which is slightly thicker than the other. When empty, it becomes lame and seemingly lifeless, hanging like straight hair, but when fully pumped with air, it becomes compact and curls like a curl. The movement of the curling is quite random to some extent, so if you’re going to put something next to a tentacle while it’s curling under pressure, there’s a chance that it will wrap around, and there’s a chance that it won’t. But put something next to a whole lot of these tentacles, and it’s quite certain that at least a few of them will wrap around the object as it curls, and some more, and the more of these tangles there will be, the stronger the grip will be.

The haptic robot can gently grab fragile objects

The tentacles collectively provide a firm grip on an object, but individually, each tentacle has a relatively weak grip which means there is little risk of a fragile object being damaged in the process. And since the sensors only provide a secure hold when fully injected with air, releasing this pressure will also release what is trapped.

Tested using both real-world experiments with the prototype as well as simulations, the researchers believe the new clutch design could be an effective alternative to what is used today to handle everything from plants, to fruits and vegetables, and even delicate glassware. However, the design still comes with some issues that need to be addressed before something like this appears in factories or warehouses. The random nature of the entanglement means that captured objects cannot be returned with the same precision and accuracy as the vacuum clutch used to handle the finer objects of today, which poses a major challenge for automated tasks such as packaging, or preparing a part for the next stage in an automated assembly line.

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