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Glove senses and grips objects

Swatches | October 1, 2022 | By:

Chanhong Lee and Ravi Tutika test the Octa-Glove in the lab of Michael Bartlett. Photo: Alex Parrish/Virginia Tech.

Scientists at Virginia Tech have developed a glove for grasping things underwater with rubber suckers and a sophisticated sensing capability that mimics an octopus’s unique muscular and nervous systems. The octopus is well equipped to handle objects in the water, facilitated by more than 2,000 suckers spread across eight arms and an ability to process information from an array of chemical and mechanical sensors. 

In creating the “Octa-Glove,” the researchers sought to recreate these capabilities for the human hand. The glove features rubber stalks capped with soft, actuated membranes that mimic the octopus suckers and are designed to adhere to both flat and curved surfaces while only applying light pressure. It does this with an array of micro-LIDAR optical proximity sensors that detect nearby objects. 

A microcontroller connects the sensors with the synthetic suckers to govern their behavior, with the gripping abilities of the glove able to be configured by tuning the sensor array depending on the task at hand.

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