…Griple, developed by Zhe Xu and Maya Cakmak at the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Washington, in Seattle, is a US $10 3D printed adapter that slides onto a wide variety of household cleaning tools designed for humans to use with one hand. All you have to do is put Griple on the handle of one of these tools, add some Sugru self-curing silicone to lock it in place, and that’s it. Griple makes it easy for a robot with a relatively simple gripper (like a Baxter or a PR2) to then pick up and use these tools, without having to deal with any kind of grasping issues.
Griple neatly solves many common issues with all three stages of tool use: grasping, applying, and placing. The researchers ran a series of experiments where their PR2 (“Rosie2”) used household tools including sponges, dusters, sweepers, and scrubbers to do things like wiping off a whiteboard, sweeping dust off of a table, and removing lint from fabric. Without Griple, Rosie’s average cleaning success rate was 86 percent. With Griple, it was 99 percent. Not bad for a $10 investment, right?
The other advantage of Griple is that it provides a very easy way for a robot to identify, and even localize, the tools that it needs. If you’re making a Griple for a tool, it would be simple to attach a big fat QR code to it at the same time, which the robot can use vision to identify. Or to get slightly more complicated (but only slightly), you could embed an RFID tag into Griple to do away with vision entirely.
At the moment, attaching a Griple to a tool is a more or less a permanent modification, which the researchers acknowledge might render those tools unusable (or at least, very uncomfortable) for humans. Most of these tools are so cheap as to be nearly disposable, but the researchers are already thinking about ways in which a Griple might be able to be easily detachable. Or best case scenario, your robot might be able to attach a Griple to a tool all by itself, whenever it needs to….
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