The researchers of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT have succeeded in developing a whole new generation of “pneumatic” actuators, a technology dubbed PneuAct. These large banana-like actuators are covered in a conductive wire that can “feel” when in contact with an object. As soon as contact is established, a flow of air is sent into the pneumatic zones, which inflates the prosthesis and thus enables it to grasp the object in question.
MIT believes that this technology could primarily serve as a prosthesis (shown in the video above) or a gripping aid glove (for people with hand injuries), but other uses remain possible. On the new prototypes, the level of flexion can be programmed in order to obtain a more precise result, knowing that software already makes it possible to finely and simply configure the actuator (level of flexion, intensity and speed of inflation, intensity and speed reaction to “touch”). The CSAIL team now plans to create pneumatic actuators with different shapes.