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MIT Unveils Robotic Manipulator Filled With Coffee Grounds

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the your-creepy-robot-smells-delicious dept.

Robotics 60

An anonymous reader writes "MIT researchers have developed a highly articulated robotic manipulator based on soft materials that can harden to reposition the device. The technique is known as jamming, and it relies on pouches filled with granular material like coffee grounds; when air is removed from the pouches, they become rigid. The researchers combined jamming actuators with cables to build a manipulator resembling an elephant trunk. They say the device is low-cost, capable of grasping a variety of objects, and can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy."

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60 comments

Now that's clever. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048937)

Good idea!

Re:Now that's clever. (4, Insightful)

Mister Transistor (259842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049171)

Lame First aside, actually it is.

If you have ever seen a vacuum-packed brick of coffee you know what this is all about. It's ROCK-HARD until you break the seal, then it all falls to dust as the air gets in the package.

Re:Now that's clever. (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#40052949)

It sounds good, but the coffee grounds aren't the new part. That's a couple of years old. The new part is mixing it with cables, which is probably a bit trickier than it sounds like.

FWIW, I suspect that coffee grounds aren't a particularly good choice, outside of being cheap, and gleaning lots of PR. But when they're dry enough they aren't all that heavy. And they don't like to pack tightly, which is fairly important. But I think something sturdier would be better. Say hollow aluminum marbles. (They'd need to be sturdy enough not do dent in use, though. But coffee grounds turn into dust, which is also a bad thing.)

Still, for demonstration projects, coffee grounds is possibly the best choice. Sand is too heavy. Flour tends to pack. etc.

Re:Now that's clever. (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40053367)

Actually, I have also seen whole coffee beans packaged this way, too - the same effect applies, the little bricks of coffee beans are also rock-hard. Apparently the granular size of the filler isn't too important to the process - it just has to be un-compressible enough so that when it's all packed down together it doesn't alter or lose its shape.

Re:Now that's clever. (1)

blakelarson (1486631) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054807)

I saw this presentation at ICRA. Believe it or not, they actually tested several materials (coffee, sand, glass spheres, diatomic (?) earth) and the coffee performed best in their tests. I'm sure there are better materials, but don't assume they didn't think of it.

Here's a clever idea (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049193)

Unban Ethanol-fueled

women rejoice (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048941)

they just built the most awesome dildo ever

Re:women rejoice (-1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048949)

They won't need them. I can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy!

Re:women rejoice (5, Funny)

BobNET (119675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049491)

I can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy!

So can anyone, it's called rigor mortis.

Re:women rejoice (3, Funny)

HatofPig (904660) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049597)

When she told me she was a necrophiliac, I should have gotten the hint!

Re:women rejoice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050027)

Necrophilia is dead boring.

Re:women rejoice (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050581)

Not over my dead body!

Re:women rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40059593)

Well F*** me dead!!!!

Re:women rejoice (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049039)

Guess it's funny then that this phenomenon is known as 'jamming'...

I detect a new fetish.

Re:women rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049101)

I saw this once, it was called Log jammin'

Re:women rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049181)

This nihilism will not stand, man.

Japanese men rejoice (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049081)

Japanese men rejoice. Tentacle porn is no longer limited to a drawn form.

Re:Japanese men rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049623)

I'd bet there's probably more japanese woman with tentacle fantasy fetish than man.

Any japanese women reading this clare to share some thoughts?

Re:Japanese men rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049885)

I'd bet there's probably more japanese woman with tentacle fantasy fetish than man.

Any japanese women reading this clare to share some thoughts?

Yes, tentacle sex is awesome!

  -- Dr. Tenta ... er, I mean, a totally normal Japanese teenage girl

Re:women rejoice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049471)

Will MIT call it S.C.H.L.O.N.G.?

Can remain in a hardened state... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048953)

I can just see all the jokes about showing off your elephant trunk...

Girls will love that (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048963)

They say the device is low-cost, capable of grasping a variety of objects, and can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy

Pfizer patent (4, Funny)

BoogeyOfTheMan (1256002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048985)

"...can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy."

Didn't Pfizer patent this?

Re:Pfizer patent (1)

Alunral (2477578) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049003)

Dunno if they can patent a penis.

Re:Pfizer patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049133)

Then again, they probably can.

Re:Pfizer patent (2)

BackwardPawn (1356049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049203)

Collecting licensing fees can be a bit sticky, though.

Re:Pfizer patent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049153)

Maybe Cap Toys did?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vac-Man

Re:Pfizer patent (0)

spitzak (4019) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049371)

See your doctor if it exceeds 4 hours

Re:Pfizer patent (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049729)

But Pfizer solution didn't manipulate the actuators with cables.

mrs. piggy's tasty anus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049123)

coffee beans in my anus!

Cable driven trunks. (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049159)

That idea has been around for a while. Several snake and trunk like cable driven robots have been built. Some are a tube around discs, with three cables arranged to pull on each disc. Each disc is then a controllable joint. Combining this with pressure, vacuum, and a jamming medium is interesting, but it's not yet clear how useful.

And no, it's not cheap. You still have a servomotor on every cable, plus valves and an air compressor. Coffee grounds are probably a temporary choice. Something like glass or plastic beads, which won't absorb water, may last longer.

Re:Cable driven trunks. (4, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050325)

This is cheaper, because it only needs 3 servos for the entire arm, rather than 3 for each arm segment, and still maintain independent segment motion. You can lock (jam) all arm segments, release one for motion, move it (reshape that segment) while keeping the others rigid, then lock it again.

Re:Cable driven trunks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050679)

I've seen grounds used like that as a universal gripper in place of a claw. The bag obviously wraps to an odd shaped object and the vacuum bit causes everything to firm up so you can lift the object.

Re:Cable driven trunks. (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40051137)

No, the coffee grounds are so that they can patent a combination maid-service and coffee-maker.

Taken from the last line... (2)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049173)

"They say the device is low-cost, capable of grasping a variety of objects, and can remain in a hardened state for extended periods of time using little energy."

In The Industry, they're called "fluffers".

Vac-Man is dead... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049255)

Long live Vac-Tentacle!

Stretch Armstrong has a new nemesis!

Wiki Citation [wikipedia.org]

That's what she said (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049277)

The whole summary is just a perfect setup.

We've secretly replaced (5, Funny)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049325)

Here at MIT in one of the world's finest robotics labs we've secretly replaced the coffee grounds in these articulated manipulators with rich, sparkling Folgers crystals to see if scientists can tell the difference.

We've secretly replaced...sleep! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049487)

Wonderful! An articulated manipulator that'll keep scientists up all night.

What could possibly go wrong? (4, Funny)

xt (225814) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049337)

Following the second link [ieee.org] of TFA, I saw the picture of the robot [ieee.org] and it was somehow familiar [wikipedia.org] ... What could possibly go wrong [wikipedia.org] ?

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049375)

I for one would like to welcome our new caffeine powered overlords.

AND THIS JUST PROVES (2)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049455)

my caps lock was on, and you're thinking the same thing Everyone else was. Pervert.

NOT a dividend of space exploration (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049561)

Since this is powered by ambient air pressure I guess NASA won't be too interested. On the flipside, the concept might be fantastically powerful underwater.

.

I want the next bear I shoot (just kidding) stuffed with coffee beans so I can pose it, pump out the air, and use it as a couch or coffee table.

This could be an extremely protective packing material if you pump out the air to harden it after letting it conform to the shape of the object in the package.

Sandbag walls might be much stronger if the air were sucked out of the bags after they're stacked to make them lock into place against each other.

Re:NOT a dividend of space exploration (2)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050299)

It might be possible to create a sheath around the arm (after all, there are no sharp or otherwise dangerous parts sticking out of it) that would give it some pressure. That way, it could work in space.

Re:NOT a dividend of space exploration (1)

simonebaracchi (1744894) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050353)

Sandbag walls might be much stronger if the air were sucked out of the bags after they're stacked to make them lock into place against each other.

except for the fact that they will become useless (or just like standard sandbags) after a shot makes the air gets in?

Re:NOT a dividend of space exploration (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050605)

> ...after a shot makes the air gets in?

There exist uses for sandbags that do not involve bullets. I can't think of any where rigidity would be desireable, though.

Re:NOT a dividend of space exploration (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050477)

It could still work in space. Pump air in to unlock, suck air out to lock. It might not be as flexible in the unlocked state though.

Re:NOT a dividend of space exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40056747)

It could still work in space. Pump air in to unlock, suck air out to lock. It might not be as flexible in the unlocked state though.

No, that won't work in space. In space, sucking air out won't make the thing rigid. There is no outside pressure, so sucking all the air out of the plastic bag won't flatten the bag. There can be vacuuum inside, because there is vacuum outside.

Copycats (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049941)

This is year old news, MIT simply takes old and unkown ideas and presents them as their own. MIT is full of frauds, a well known one is Nocera.

Brew my own (0)

Jetra (2622687) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050195)

As much as I would love this for my house, I've spent too many hours perfecting my coffee brewing almost down to a science. It would be a waste of the robot's time and mine to do a job I already do great and to have the poor thing gathering dust in a corner.

Re:Brew my own (2)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050437)

As much as I would love this for my house, I've spent too many hours perfecting my coffee brewing almost down to a science. It would be a waste of the robot's time and mine to do a job I already do great and to have the poor thing gathering dust in a corner.

Roomba to the rescue!

Hey, how well does this coffee robot run Java? And is Oracle going to sue MIT?

Re:Brew my own (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40056171)

How many sockpuppet multiple reg accts on /. do u have troll (4 modding urself up n others down with)? barbara.hudson@unjava.com from http://slashdot.org/~Barbara%2C+not+Barbie [slashdot.org] = barbara.hudson@barbara-hudson.com from http://slashdot.org/~tomhudson [slashdot.org] is proof enough of that much.

Its a fake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050573)

They cut a hole in the wall, had a baby elephant stick its trunk through, and call it a robot made out of coffee. Is this a repeat from April 1?

Electrical materials (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050855)

If you used materials that convert to a solid when a current is run thru them i think it would work better.

I know that exists for fluids, so the trick would be for something less solid in its normal state. ( think true synthetic mussels ).

If device remains rigid after four hours ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050929)

If the device remains rigid after four hours, call a mechanic to avoid the possibility of permanent damage.

second clip in the video (1)

tryptogryphic (1985608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40051125)

The second video clip was totally of a boner deflating...totally.

coffee grounds (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#40051187)

Using non-used coffee grounds is waste, used coffee grounds smell terrible.

That's why I predict that this invention will fail. "Golden age" of robotic manipulators is over.

Contact Your Doctor (1)

cstacy (534252) | more than 2 years ago | (#40051751)

Contact your doctor if your manipulator stays jammed for more than 4 hours. This can be a serious condition.

I, for one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40052735)

... welcome our new caffeine-based overlords.

Jamming is also used... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40068807)

for emergency/medical situations when needing a fast splint to immobilize patients or their limbs.

There's a bag with beads inside and a valve.

The bag is formed around the limb, and air pumped out.

I was amazed to see this at work during an exercise.

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