Scientists have developed a new robotic soft gripper that’s so gentle it can pick up an egg. According to the scientists involved, the technology is poised to change the way robots can touch, a breakthrough that could be big for a number of different industries.

The method takes advantage of electroadhesion, which is described as an astriction between two surfaces subjected to an electrical field. It’s what makes a balloon stick to the wall after rubbing it on your hair. Once the voltage is turned on, the electrodes built into the soft gripper bend toward the object, and gently grasp it, no matter the shape.

Robotics are typically pneumatically controlled, or are only capable of picking up delicate objects once they’re told the shape and size. That’s what makes the new soft gripper such a remarkable achievement.

“We can imagine it being used in artificial hands for a robot companion, in the food industry, or even in space to catch debris,” said Herbert Shea, who helped with the soft gripper’s development.

Jun Shintake, another member of the team, added that the soft gripper could also be used in drones.

“This is the first time that electroadhesion and soft robotics have been combined together to grasp objects,” Shintake said.

Source EPFL