Bridgestone Corp. is using its expertise in rubber materials and tire technology to develop a soft robot hand with the dexterity and flexibility of a human, with the hope that the automaton will help alleviate labor shortages in the logistics industry, Mainichi Japan reported.
Photo Insert: (L-R) Ken Kutaragi, President, and CEO, Ascent Robotics, Inc., and Norikazu Otoyama, CEO, Soft robotics Ventures, Bridgestone Corporation pose with the new Intelligent robotics system with artificial rubber muscles.
Equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology to recognize objects, the robotic hand will be capable of packing fragile objects like raw eggs in boxes, allowing it to operate autonomously alongside workers in factories and stores.
The Japanese tire maker, which unveiled a prototype to media in Tokyo on Feb. 1, plans for the soft robot hand to be commercially available, possibly in 2024.
In order to grip objects of various shapes, hardness, and weight with just the right strength, the "fingers" of the robot hand utilize rubber actuators based on tire and hydraulic hose technology.
Tokyo-based venture firm Ascent Robotics Inc., in which Bridgestone will invest 500 million yen ($3.9 million), will be in charge of developing the "brain functions" of the hand.
The company, led by Ken Kutaragi, who is known internationally as the father of the PlayStation game console series, announced on Feb. 1 a capital and business alliance with Bridgestone to make the intelligent robot hand a reality.
An official involved in the in-house venture at Bridgestone expressed enthusiasm for the project, saying "we want to address social issues amid the severe labor shortage in distribution warehouses."