Research ArticleSOFT ROBOTS

An anthropomorphic soft skeleton hand exploiting conditional models for piano playing

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Science Robotics  19 Dec 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 25, eaau3098
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aau3098


The development of robotic manipulators and hands that show dexterity, adaptability, and subtle behavior comparable to human hands is an unsolved research challenge. In this article, we considered the passive dynamics of mechanically complex systems, such as a skeleton hand, as an approach to improving adaptability, dexterity, and richness of behavioral diversity of such robotic manipulators. With the use of state-of-the-art multimaterial three-dimensional printing technologies, it is possible to design and construct complex passive structures, namely, a complex anthropomorphic skeleton hand that shows anisotropic mechanical stiffness. We introduce a concept, termed the “conditional model,” that exploits the anisotropic stiffness of complex soft-rigid hybrid systems. In this approach, the physical configuration, environment conditions, and conditional actuation (applied actuation) resulted in an observable conditional model, allowing joint actuation through passivity-based dynamic interactions. The conditional model approach allowed the physical configuration and actuation to be altered, enabling a single skeleton hand to perform three different phrases of piano music with varying styles and forms and facilitating improved dynamic behaviors and interactions with the piano over those achievable with a rigid end effector.

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