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We Just Took Another Step Toward the Perfect Gentle Robot Hand Job

Robot hands used to be cold, firm and rigid. No longer!

New developments in robotic technology have led to the creation of “soft and sensitive” robotic fingers. Surely, this will have significant uses for health care, disability equipment and other human-focused technologies. Maybe in the future, these delicate robots will also be able to hold our hands, give us back massages and provide some needed hugs. It will probably also mean that robots will be able to give perfectly gentle hand jobs

Researchers at Ritsumeikan University in Japan have been working to create robotic fingers that more closely mirror human hands, both in their subtlety of movement and in their texture. This has been a challenge, because in order for robots to properly execute tasks, they require sensors throughout their hands and fingers. In the past, these sensors have been firm and rigid. 

Thanks to 3D printing, these researchers, who published their findings in Nano Energy in early December, were able to create a type of soft-grip robotic finger with the sensors already built in. The fingers further utilize inflation chambers that allow them to bend or vary in stiffness and rigidity. These chambers, as well as a mechanism called vacuum jamming, allow for the robot fingers to hold and grasp objects firmly, but not forcefully. 

Currently, this robot hand is designed to have three fingers, but as the researchers state in a press release, “human-like grasping is a top goal in robotics,” meaning a five-finger hand may be soon to come. 

The main application for this technology is to develop health-care robots capable of more comfortably and adeptly interacting with humans. It’s slightly dystopic, but it will likely also help provide better care. Eventually — and this is just a guess — sex robots will be giving some truly delicate HJs as well. It’s worth noting, too, that these robot hands have been designed so that they don’t require a power source, meaning we may also eventually have sex robots that provide unlimited eco-friendly HJs. 

Finally, we no longer have to suffer through those energy-sucking, cold and rigid robot hand jobs.