If movies have taught us anything, it’s that robots will eventually be part of the society, hopefully in the likeness of cuddlesome Baymax and not a murderous robot sent from the future by an AI. But in Baymax’s case, while he can provide medical and psychological care, it will be hard to handle tiny objects with those plushy hands. So to make it easier for robots to perform intricate tasks involving minuscule objects, researchers from ETH Zurich have created a grip that hold objects with sound.
The latest prototype from the ‘No-Touch Robotics’ project is that for the hand of a robot that utilizes acoustic levitation to grab hold of an object. Acoustic levitation is a method that utilizes the pressure developed by sound waves to suspend matter in a medium, like air.
ETH Pioneer Fellow Marcel Schuck is developing a robotic gripper that can manipulate small and fragile objects without touching them. The technology is based on sound waves. https://t.co/qm3VlwsMyx pic.twitter.com/38H91WaYpo
— ETH Zurich (@ETH_en) January 21, 2021
The arrangement consists of two headphone-like hemisphere that emit ultrasonic sound waves from speakers attached along the inner surface. Ultrasound waves create a pressure field that cannot be perceived by humans. The points in the field where waves overlap are pressure points used to trap small objects. This makes the object look like it is seemingly levitating between the two semi-spheres.
Researchers want to utilize this technology to lift and manipulate small objects without touching them. The acoustic grip or no-touch grip ensures that fragile objects are not damaged at all and provide a higher level of accuracy compared to conventional grips. The technology is not new and has been used for more than 80 years in fields like space exploration.
Image Credit: ETH Zürich / Stefan Weiss