Soft Robotic Tentacles – A new way to gently grasp fragile objects

The Tentacle Robot gently grabs fragile objects
You know how difficult it is to hold objects with robotic grippers if you have ever played claw games at arcades. Imagine how nerve-racking it would be to try and grab an endangered piece of coral or a valuable artifact off a sunken vessel instead of a plush stuffed animal.

The majority of robotic grippers today rely on advanced machine learning algorithms or embedded sensors in combination with the skill and knowledge of the operator to grasp irregularly shaped or fragile objects. Researchers from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have shown a simpler way.

Inspiring themselves from nature, the researchers developed a new soft robotic gripper which uses a collection thin tentacles that entangles and ensnares objects in a similar way to how jellyfish capture stunned prey. Individual tentacles or filaments are weak. The filaments work together to grip and hold objects of all shapes and sizes. The gripper uses simple inflation to wrap objects around and does not require any sensing, planning or feedback control.