Ocado has been testing the feasibility of using robotic hands for the picking and packing of shopping orders at its warehouses. Alongside its robotic arm, the trial “RBO Hand 2” uses a ‘compliant gripper’ with spring-like properties – this prevents the damage or bruising of delicate food products like fruit and vegetables.
The RBO Hand 2 is developed by the Technische Universität Berlin, and uses rubber materials and pressurised air for “passively adapting grasps.”
The trial is part of the SoMa project, an EU-funded programme for research and innovation. The project aims to design compliant robotic hands that are able to handle delicate objects, with barely any knowledge about an item’s shape.
The project also covers the design of robotic hands that can exploit environmental constraints – physical constraints imposed by the environment. Ocado Technology said that the variation in shape of certain food products can create significant constraints in designing a suitable gripper.
Ocado Technology robotics is aiming to explore more complex scenarios for the robot over the next few months.