Toyota Research Institute Shares Punyo Bubble Gripper Design to Advance Soft Robotics

TRI is offering the designer source files and full building instructions for free.

Toyota Research Institute

The Punyo Soft Bubble Gripper was developed for household robots.

The Toyota Research Institute, or TRI, has developed soft grippers for domestic robot hands and today said it is sharing the design source files and full build instructions to help advance the technology. It is offering the materials on Punyo.tech so research institutions and aspiring roboticists can build their own Punyo Soft Bubble Grippers.

“The soft robotics community is small, and the visuotactile sensing community is even smaller,” said Alex Alspach, manager of the Robotics Tactile Team at TRI and the lead developer of the Punyo Soft Bubble Gripper. “By sharing the blueprints for this gripper with the world, we hope that our friends and colleagues can test our technology, improve upon it, and take us closer to building robotic assistants that help to provide independence, dignity, and joy to those with disabilities or age-related challenges.”

Established in 2015, the Toyota Research Institute aims to develop active vehicle safety and automated driving technologies, robotics, and other human amplification technology. Led by Dr. Gill Pratt, the Toyota unit said its researchers “use artificial intelligence to benefit society and improve the human condition by creating a future where everyone has the freedom to move, engage, and explore.” TRI has offices in Los Altos, Calif.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Punyo gripper components

Punyo gripper components. Source: Toyota Research Institute

Punyo offers flexible robot manipulation

Building on recently published work, the Punyo project is changing the mechanics of robot manipulation and contact with the world, claimed the institute. Most robots today are hard to the touch and use rigid grippers, but TRI said its air-filled, elastic bubble design provides greater flexibility and better grasping.

When combined with cameras on the inside, the shape- and force-sensing gripper enables robots to respond to and control an object when it slips or moves, TRI said.

The Punyo bubbles use visuotactile sensing techniques that allow a robot to recognize objects by shape, track their orientation in its grasp, and sense forces as it interacts with the world. This feedback is critical as robots learn to push and pull on the world safely and robustly while assisting people by opening doors, putting things away, using household tools, and other domestic tasks, said TRI.

The Punyo Soft Bubble Gripper is freely available at Punyo.tech.


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Toyota Research Institute

The Punyo Soft Bubble Gripper was developed for household robots.


Robot Technologies