Robo-Elephant Trunk Gentle Enough to Work With Humans?

Robots are present in all kinds of applications that affect our daily lives, but we still very rarely see them working closely with humans. That’s because putting a big, powerful robot right next to a soft, fragile human and having them work together safely is somewhat tricky. German robotics company Festo has created a robot that mimics the movement of an elephant’s trunk and could possibly be safe enough to work alongside our squishy, easily-crushed human bodies with a minimum amount of bone breaking.

To create the arm that looks suspiciously like one of Dr. Octopus’ tentacles, the team used a 3D printer to print off flexible, lightweight segments. The end of the “trunk” sports a three-pronged gripper that collapses to grip an object, minimizing the necessary force and decreasing the chances of accidental injury. The entire ‘bot is rich with sensors that limit its force and extension, making it potentially gentle enough that it can work side-by-side with human workers on assembly lines and in factories.

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See more in Robotics or under Technology. November, 2010.