An anonymous reader writes "MIT researchers have developed [http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/jamming-grippers-combine-to-form-robotic-elephant-trunk] 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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