Willow Garage Introduces Velo 2G Adaptive Gripper

The Velo V2 brings passive adaptation that allows for easy gripping of a wide variety of objects by the PR2

1 min read
Willow Garage Introduces Velo 2G Adaptive Gripper

For all that Willow Garage contributes to the robotics community, it's not often that they release new hardware. They've got the PR2, the TurtleBot, the PR3 and PR4 (oops, we can't tell you about them yet, bwahahaha), and that's about it. So when Willow comes up with something new, it's usually worth paying attention, and they've announced a new 3D printed adaptive gripper design for the PR2: the Velo 2G.

As you can see, the nifty bit about the Velo 2G is the fact that it can passively adapt to all sorts of objects. By "passively adapt," we mean that you don't have to do any fancy programmin' to get the fingers to grip around an object: the gripper design itself takes care of it for you. This works on square things, round things, thin things, irregularly shaped things, and all kinds of other stuff that robots are likely to find lying around your house. 

We should also mention that this overall design reminds us a lot of the adaptive two and three finger grippers they make over at Robotiq, although the Robotiq grippers use a mechanical linkage design as opposed to a tendon-driven design. 

The Velo 2G is just an alpha prototype at the moment, and it's not for sale, but given the simple design, single actuator, and 3D printability, we're optimistic that when it does become available (at least in a research incarnation) this robot hand won't cost an arm and a leg. Zing! Thanks folks, we'll be here all week.

[ Velo 2G Gripper ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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