This Saturday I visited the open day at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich. There were very interesting projects and two of them impressed me in particular, so I filmed them.
This robot demonstrates the approach of the AI-Lab in Zurich: Outsource most of the motion into the mechanic and the material, so you don't need a lot of computation to calculate movements. This fish robot has a motor that moves it, but most of the forward-move results from the property of the plastic material.
The hand couples sensory input of the fingers with motor output, so when pressure on the fingers is above a certain threshold, the fingers stop moving. This is very important, because otherwise fragile objects would break because of too much pressure. This is exactly the same way humans grab objects. Our hands don't close anymore as soon the pressure is "high enough". You can see the sensors on the hand as black dots.
The hand can be used as a prosthesis. You can see my hand on the left hand side. Whenever I closed my hand, the robotic arm also closed his hand. The real sensor for measuring my muscle-current is not the one below my hand, which you can see in the film. There was a second sensor on the top of my forearm.
This hand was already tested with disabled people and works for doing tasks like cutting gherkins.