Why bother with expensive artificial fingers when a vacuum-powered beanbag works better? Robots are great at manipulating objects like automobile parts and circuit-board components. But what about a glass of orange juice, a ball bearing, or a raw egg? Expensive, Terminator-style artificial hands are awful at picking up everyday objects. But the human hand is an incredibly delicate instrument, capable of firmly gripping objects and not letting go until we decide we’re good and ready. Robot hands tend to be both clunky and metallic, and often result in dropped items. But no longer.
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The secret lies in the coffee. You’d think that was a typo, but not so much. Scientists from Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot have created human-analogue hands using nothing but coffee grounds, party balloons and a vacuum pump. It is inspired by Cornell's new, innovative robotic gripper (a sort of shape-shifting balloon hand), Steve Norris of Norris Labs decided to go DIY and make his own home-brewed replica at a lower cost. Heinrich Jaeger throws that out the window, and has built a hand that can pick up almost anything out of a balloon, coffee grounds and a vacuum pump.