‘World’s strongest’ hand plays piano with human-like fingers

13 February 2020, 13:00 | Updated: 13 February 2020, 13:01

By Helena Asprou

As well as serving drinks and holding eggs, the Korean robot can play notes on a keyboard using the motion of human fingers.

A new invention has just been unveiled in Korea: the ‘world’s strongest’ robotic hand.

The brainchild of researchers at the Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials (KIMM), the futuristic contraption has been specially designed to handle objects and tools.

From holding an egg and serving drinks to cutting paper with a pair of scissors, the robot clearly has skills – which also include being able to play the piano.

Easily mounted on a variety of robotic arms, the hand offers the world’s strongest grasping force against its own weight – and with four fingers and 16 joints, it even mimics the structure of its human equivalent.

To move each finger and joint independently, the research team installed 12 motors and embedded a driving unit inside the palm, allowing it to press piano keys and play scales.

Read more: This robot pianist means you’ll never need an accompanist again >

Robotic hand plays notes on a keyboard
Robotic hand plays notes on a keyboard. Picture: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials

Two types of force sensors, attached to the fingertips, fingers and palm, were also developed to help the hand detect contact with objects and allow it to control the strength of its grasp.

And at less than 1kg, it’s far lighter than other robotic hands that have previously emerged (watch video below), but can hold objects three times its own weight.

Led by Dr. Hyunmin Do, principal researcher at KIMM’s Department of Robotics and Mechatronics, the project hopes to assist workers on industrial sites and help people with their daily routine.

In a statement, Dr. Do said: “The robot hand was developed to handle various objects including the tools used in everyday life by mimicking the delicate motion of a human hand.

“It is also expected to be used as a research platform for studying the grasping algorithm of robot hand and manipulation intelligence.”

The hand isn’t quite ready to perform a Beethoven concerto – but even with a few simple notes, the invention marks a huge step forward for technology (and music).

Who knows, in years to come perhaps we’ll be watching live performances with a full robot orchestra...