Researchers around the world are working on soft robotic systems that will allow robots to pick up items that are irregularly shaped and difficult for traditional robots to handle. Disney Research is working on soft robotics and has a new video and some detail on the system it has created. The hardware is designed to allow physical human-robot integration.
That makes it sound as if Disney might have a future in mind where all the people wearing costumes around the park are robots. The robotic arm and hand Disney is showing off has six degrees of freedom and uses a pair of air-filled force sensing modules. Those modules absorb impact and provide contact force feedback.
The outer cover of the arm is air inflated to enclose the hardware underneath and the force sensing modules. Disney crammed a projector inside the arm that can throw a display on the inside of the cover that users can see from the outside. Presumably, that is the heart seen in the image above.
The outer cover is also able to provide volume and range of motion for the arm to move. Stretching at the elastic relief on the cover lets the arm bend and stretch to reach out and grasp an object.
Sensors in the hand allow fingers to follow a closing trajectory, make contact, and then grasp with a given range of fingertip pressures. That capability along with an algorithm allows the hand to gently grasp a soft object. The video below gives some insight into the design, development, and operation of the device.
SOURCE: Disney Research