A robot hand doesn't come equipped with the same luxuries of our own — at least, not yet. Our fingers feature a soft, conforming layer of skin that allows us to pick up objects of all different shapes, whereas a robotic gripper runs the danger of simply crushing the thing. So, why not take the fingers out of the equation?
Instead of the usual metal, servos and wires, the gripper is made from some surprising stuff: a balloon-like sack filled with coffee grounds, couscous and other grains, as well as a vacuum. It's soft body allows it to conform around the shape of the object, then the vacuum sucks in the air between the grains and the outside layer constricts, tidily lifting whatever is under it — even something as delicate as a light bulb.
It may not give a robot the versatility a hand-like gripper would, but it certainly works well in the meantime until we perfect that kind of tech.
Check out the balloon-like gripper for yourself in the video below.