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 hopes that the automaton will help alleviate labor shortages in the logistics industry.
Equipped with artificial intelligence 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 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 Corp, in which Bridgestone will invest 500 million yen, 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.”