While discussing a topic for an article with Popular Science editors, the Harvard Soft Robotics Toolkit was mentioned. Andrew Terranova had seen the toolkit before, but had not considered making something with it. Andrew reviewed the information in the toolkit, and decided to adapt some of the concepts to make a robotic hand.
Some of the materials and fabrication techniques included in the toolkit seemed intimidating for a hobby roboticist. To make soft robotics more widely accessible, the goals of this project were:
- Keep the project low cost
- Use easily available materials
- Use techniques that most hobbyists would find not too difficult
The resulting design met these goals, and was published in the May issue of Popular Science.
Below is a video excerpt from Erin Kennedy's Robot Party Google Hangout from February 2015, where I introduce the project and explain some of the motivation behind it. The Robot Party is a community group of robot makers who meet online to demonstrate and discuss robotics projects.
Although there were no formal functional requirements, an important aspect of the project was to create an engaging exhibit to attract and interest people into soft robotics. On April 19th 2015, Andrew displayed the robotic hand at the Children's Museum of Somerset County NJ, where he volunteers, much to the delight of the children and not a few of their parents. It is hopeful that the project will continue to inspire curious people to try something in robotics in general, and soft robotics in particular.