The News Today
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10.21.20
All the Feels

Ultrasonic Hands Could Give Robots a Lighter Touch

__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Robots & Machines
ETH Zurich

Hands Off

A Swiss researcher has created a prototype robot hand that moves objects without ever touching them.

The system exploits a phenomenon that’s been around for 80 years — and it has the potential to bring the benefits of robotics to a wider range of industries in the future.

Magic Robot Hand

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich researcher Marcel Schuck’s robot hand looks like a bisected sphere on the end of a standard robot arm.

Each half of the sphere contains numerous tiny loudspeakers. By precisely controlling the ultrasound waves emitted from the speakers using custom software, Schuck can suspend a small object between the two halves of the sphere — a phenomenon called “acoustic levitation.”

He can even move the object around in midair by manipulating the direction of the waves.

Watch Out

Schuck now plans to survey experts from various industries to explore applications for his ultrasonic robot hand. But he can already think of at least one potential use that’s particularly appropriate given that his lab is based in Switzerland: watchmaking.

“Toothed gearwheels, for example, are first coated with lubricant, and then the thickness of this lubricant layer is measured,” he said in a press release. “Even the faintest touch could damage the thin film of lubricant.”

READ MORE: This ultrasonic gripper could let robots hold things without touching them [TechCrunch]

More on robot hands: New Robot Hand Works Like a Venus Flytrap to Grip Objects