Robots are getting better at handling fragile objects all the time. This 2-fingered robotic gripper can adjust the stiffness of its grasp. UB engineers developed it to mimic the adjustable grip of a human hand and avoid breaking things it is holding. Here is how it works:
each of the gripper’s fingers has a magnetic base that sits between two neodymium magnets that repulse, or push against, the finger. The air gap between the magnets acts like a spring, creating a little give when the hand picks up an object or collides with an external force. The stiffness of the grip can also be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the space between magnets.
The gripper also absorbs energy from collisions. The above video shows it in action.