A cheap robotic hand developed by a company called Grabit offers something most of the other mechanical limbs we’ve seen before don’t: the ability to pick up objects using electrostatic attraction. Even if you’re not familiar with term, you’ve likely encountered the phenomenon at least once. Ever rubbed a balloon on your hair for fun, so you can stick it to the wall?
The sticky effect seen when you rub a balloon on your hair could be used to help robots pick things up, greatly expanding what machines can do in factories. Grabit, a spinoff of SRI International, has developed a simple and cheap robotic hand that makes use of electrostatic attraction. Grabit’s robot hand, which was demonstrated at the RoboBusiness conference in Boston last week, is a little more complex than the balloon trick: for example, it uses powered electrodes to sustain the electrostatic attraction, and alternating polarities to avoid charge buildup and keep the device from collecting dust.