This 'origami' robot looks like a delicate flower, but is strong enough to lift a bottle of wine

Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAILMIT’s ‘origami’ robot in action.
  • Researchers have built a flower-shaped robot that can pick up objects more than 100 times its own weight.
  • The robot has an origami “magic ball” skeleton, and its main advantage is that it’s able to pick up delicate and irregularly-shaped objects.
  • It’s the latest creation to come out of the field of soft robotics.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have made a soft, origami-inspired robot which can pick up objects 100 times heavier than itself.

In a video released on Wednesday, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) showed off their new creation picking up a variety of items, including an apple, a rubber duck, and a wine bottle.

The robot resembles a bright orange flower, which can grasp the objects by folding inwards and exerting a vacuum. In their accompanying paper, the researchers described the robot as an “origami magic-ball” coated with a flexible thin membrane.

Here’s the robot in action:

An advantage of the soft robot is that it can pick up irregularly shaped and delicate objects.

“By combining this foldable skeleton with the soft exterior, we get the best of both worlds,” lead researcher Daniela Rus told the Verge. “I’m excited about using such a robot hand to start grasping groceries.”

Read more: Facebook is quietly developing ‘soft robotics’ – flexible robots that move and act like living organisms

The field of so-called “soft robotics” has been gaining traction in recent years, the idea being that more flexible robots will be able to complete more delicate tasks than their rigid counterparts.

Some of the more high-profile soft robotics creations draw inspiration from the animal kingdom, resembling squishy tentacles. Facebook last year started hiring PhD students to develop its own soft robotics.

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