Disney experiments with robots that grip like a human

If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that the future will be populated by robots. We’re hopeful that they’ll be good, too, and some research from Disney is suggestive that the first time you shake hands with one you might feel a comfortable human-like grip holding your hand.

That’s because Disney’s research division — aptly named “Disney Research” — has been working on a development that provides a 3D printed skin with a small cavity inside that can detect air pressure.

The technology for this kind of resembles a bit of a wide glove, or the biggest capacitive stylus tip you’ve ever seen, and when used with a robot, Disney has found that the skin module can grip objects without crushing them, potentially enabling a new generation of robots to handle objects that even humans would consider fragile, and which typically sturdy machines might accidentally break with just the basic of touches.

In fact, Disney’s experiment has been able to produce a small set of robotic hands that can grip a plastic cup and a roll of paper without exerting enough force to break or fold either, with even the soft food element of tofu able to be held by a pair of robotic hands without destruction of the food, as seen in the video below.

We are a long way off from robots that you’ll be shaking hands with or that will be holding your drinks for you, so don’t expect this sort of technology to arrive in toys this year.

That said, as robots start to be developed for fields such as hospitality or reception work in an office, it’s possible that Disney’s technological enhancements could be placed on droids used for these areas, as they would make the artificial at least be able to communicate with their limbs a little like the real deal, also known as humans.