This Fratty Robot Hand Developed Serious Motor Skills and Can Crush Cans

The ideal robotic homie will keep your home clean by washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning up after your culinary disasters. But social skills are also important too, and ideally future versions of automated caretakers will be also be able to keep it real. This means robots that can talk more naturally, for one. But it also means robots that are able to, say, offer the occasional high-five, throw up a shaka when you come home from work, or crack you another brewsky.

Luckily, a robot hand named ADEPT, short for Adaptively Driven via Elastomeric Passive Transmissions, has already mastered several of these kinds of advanced motor skills. A team of Cornell University roboticists led by associate professor Kevin O’Brien 3D-printed the gauntlet and taught it how to can catch a ball, crush a can, and dap you up. He told Inverse that ADEPT could be used to complement the abilities of less-dexterous counterparts within a few years.

“We initially designed [it] for use in prosthetics, but the possibilities are endless,” O’Brien says. “The technology could be useful in any jointed robotic system from legged robots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot Mini, to improving the strength and sensitivity of Pepper’s hands. It’s possible that you could see robots with our technology within [one or two] years.”

This is #11 on Inverse’s list of the 20 Ways A.I. Became More Human in 2018.

robotic hand
The EPT prosthetic hand

The secret to ADEPTs adeptness (sorry) is all in its palm, which houses six electric motors that control how it closes and opens its fist. The devices wind and unwind a spool of string mimicking the mechanics of human tendons. The motors know when to jump into action thanks to an array of sensors detect when a ball or fist-bump is incoming.

The combination lets ADEPT swiftly react to anything it may come in contact with, and it can even regulate how firmly it should grip something. So get ready for some firm handshakes from the assistant robots of the future, unless you’re feeling like more of a casual fist bump.

Media via O’Brien et al., Sci. Robot. 3, eaau5543 (2018), Credit: O’Brien et al., Sci. Robot. 3, eaau5543 (2018)