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Ishikawa Komuro Lab's high-speed robot hand

In May 2009, the Ishikawa Komuro Lab in Japan, demonstrated the capabilities that robotic manipulation of objects had reached. They had created a three-finger robot arm, with tactile sensors on its fingers, with each finger capable of independent 180 x 180 x 360 motion. All three were connected to a high-speed machine vision camera.

The video below, simply packs the information in, so you may need to run it two or three times to get everything. None of the examples are faked. It is indeed possible with current technology to create a robot hand that can twirl a pencil like a baton, tie knots in pieces of string, toss and catch oddly shaped objects, and dribble a ball. Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of the lab's work, is demonstrating how the tactile sensors on the fingers can be combined with machine vision, and allow the robot to pick up a pair of tweezers, then use the tweezers to piick up a grain of rice and manipulate it without damaging the rice.

This of course requires considerable skill not only in analysing the tactile feedback from the fingers, but in watching the deformation of the tweezers to pressure and guaging how this will affect the rice. The hope is that this type of manipulation will - combined with the ability to recognise and manipulate the properties of unfamiliar objects - allow robots to eventually be able to pick up and work out how to use any human tool.


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