MIT has been working on advancing robotics for many uses for many years now. Some of the robots it creates might one day help in disaster situations, while others may one day replace humans for tasks like picking items and placing them into boxes for shipping. The challenge for robotic arms that could be used for things like packing online orders is in creating a gripper that can lift enough weight to be useful and grasp objects with odd proportions.
MIT has a new robotic gripper that is made of something called an origami “magic-ball.” The ball looks like a thick, orange balloon with some sort of flexible scaffolding inside. It looks like a balloon because MIT used a balloon or TPU-coated nylon fabric sheet in some cases. The grasping motion is activated using vacuum pressure.
The design is lightweight and can lift all shapes and sizes of objects. The gripper can be rapidly manufactured using different combinations of low-cost materials for various applications.
MIT says that in experiments the gripper has been able to lift a wide range of objects ranging from delicate foods to heavy bottles and other items. The grasper can generate significant grasp force and lift a variety of shapes using only vacuum power.
The MIT video shows the robot grasping any object that can be thrown at it. It doesn’t look as if the gripper could grab objects that are larger than the circumference of its grasping maw.