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This Soft Robot Hand Plays ‘Super Mario Bros’ with a Controller Like a Pro

Sochol's soft robot hand playing a Nintendo controller
Ryan Sochol, University of Maryland

Robots aren’t exactly new, and neither are robot hands designed to perform a specific task. However, soft robotic hands that can play video games with a controller are! In fact, this one from a research team at the University of Maryland is proving to make for tough competition in Super Mario Bros.

Dexterous isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when you think of robot hands; most are stiff and, well, robotic (think: C-3PO or Futurama’s Bender). But the team, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Ryan Sochol, just created a new type of soft robot hand with a high dexterity design capable of doing tasks that require a little more fine-tuning.

The team worked to create a 3D-printed soft robot hand with integrated fluidic circuitry. That means the robot hand would have a system of tubes in it that would allow liquid or air to move through them as a way to control specific movements (similar to hydraulics) in its actuators, aka its “fingers.”

The fingers have fluidic transistors that respond to different levels of input pressure as a means of control, as the video above details with the Nintendo controller. So, if there’s no pressure, nothing happens, and no buttons get pressed. Low pressure causes the hand’s first finger to actuate and move Mario forward, while moderate pressure causes Mario to run forward. Finally, with high pressure, all three fingers press down and allow Mario to run and jump.

The research team wrote code that would correspond with the first level in Super Mario Bros. and guide the hand through the level. The result? It can beat the level without error. While the process might seem small-scale, there are many super-neat mainstream applications this technology could have in the future. The project’s paper and media are open-source and available on GitHub for anyone who’s curious.

via Nerdist

Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries was a Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over seven years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »