Tentacle robot can gently grasp fragile objects

Collectively the group of tentacles provides a strong hold on an object, but individually, each tentacle has a relatively weak grip meaning there’s little risk of a fragile object being damaged in the process. And because the tentacles only provide a secure hold when they’re pumped full of air, simply releasing that pressure will also release what’s being held.

Tested using both real-world experiments with the prototype as well as simulations, the researchers believe the new gripper design could be an effective alternative to what’s used today for handling everything from plants, to fruits and vegetables, to even delicate glassware. However, the design still comes with some issues that will need to be addressed before something like this shows up in factories or warehouses. The random nature of the entanglements means that objects that have been picked up can’t be put back down with the same amount of precision and accuracy as the vacuum grippers that are used to handle delicate objects today, which poses a big challenge for automated tasks like packaging, or prepping a part for the next stage in an automated assembly line.