Universal Gripper: Shooting Hoops & Throwing Darts

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February 15, 2012
John Amend and Hod Lipson/Cornell University


Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Chicago have expanded the capabilities of their robot gripper invention.

The jamming gripper is essentially a latex balloon filled with granular material such as coffee grounds. Fill the balloon with air and the grounds conform to the shape of any object at hand. Pump air out of the balloon and the grounds jam into solid mass, enabling the gripper to hold tight to its object. Previously, the gripper could pick up a variety of multi-sized objects, pour a glass of water or write with a pen. Now, with the rapid re-inflation of the balloon, the gripper also can shoot miniature hoops, throw darts and go bowling.

UChicago physicists led by Heinrich Jaeger developed the concept of a conforming gripper based on the jamming and unjamming of granular material, while Cornell engineers led Hod Lipson invented the new functionalities and built the gripper prototypes.