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Four years ago, German engineering firm Festo came up with a concept for a robotic arm. Somewhere between an iron snake, a mechanical claw, and a sci-fi tentacle, the Bionic Handling Assistant is functionally most similar to an elephant's trunk.
But what should a robot arm grab? For inspiration about learning what to do with hands, the scientists turned to babies.
The arm remembers movements that have been guided by a researcher, much like how a baby grabbing onto a parent's finger and will let his arm be moved when the adult moves. The programming behind the robotic trunk teaches it to remember positions that worked for grabbing.
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