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World's Smallest Robotic Hand 81

BuzzSkyline writes "The world's smallest robotic hand has been built by Yen-Wen Lu and Chang-Jin "CJ" Kim at UCLA's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. The microhand can make a fist that can grasp objects smaller than a millimeter across. Check out the freaky video on the researchers' website of the microhand grabbing a blob that looks like a fish egg. The tiny hand is made of inert materials, making it ideal for handling gooey biological samples. Lu and Kim describe their microhand in a paper published October 16 in the journal Applied Physics Letters."
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World's Smallest Robotic Hand

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  • Oblig... (Score:1, Funny)

    by jginspace ( 678908 )
    Could be very handy.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <[frogbert] [at] []> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:48AM (#16481835)
    Finally something small enough to massage my... never mind.
  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by salec ( 791463 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @03:59AM (#16481883)
    can it play the world's smallest violin?
    • I could finally offer sweaters at christmas for my ant colony ?

      More seriously, if this thing can hold microscopic needles, as a doctor and instersted in technostuff, I can't wait to see this applied to microstiching and microsurgery.
      Think "Honney, I shrunk the DaVinci Robot [] !" comming to an operating room near you.
    • by rtyall ( 960518 )
      can it play the world's smallest violin?
      I bet it can, when coupled with Jeremy Beadles other hand.
  • all these "Creepy" videos lately?
  • I Wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PixieDust ( 971386 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @04:08AM (#16481921)
    Could this application be used for repairing internals of machinery? Perhaps in Zero G environments?

    Consider a system that constantly monitors internal systems (that's already in place). A problem is identified, and a swarm of robotic workers immediately moves out to fix the problem. Could this be ther first step to a sort of nanite repair system?

    • No.

      Nanite workers would be better employed in breaking the broken area down to its constituent molecules and rebuilding it from scratch. Tiny hands capable of grasping tiny objects? Maybe a fastener of somekind. A kind of over-engineered velcro.

  • How many world's-smallest-robotic-hand-built-by-Yen-Wen-Lu- and-Chang-Jin-"CJ"-Kim-at-UCLA's-Mechanical-and-Ae rospace-Engineering-Department Microhands does it take to change a light Bulb?????

    I am guessing it will definitely not be used to change light bulbs

  • When I imagine a hand, I imagine a shape something akin to the human hand with more than three digits, one of them apposable, in a somewhat radial arrangement.

    This hand looks more like a pair of pliers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Maybe you need to expand your imagination more - or relax your difinition of a hand. Very few functional, as opposed to recreational, robots look humanoid. We are well evolved (but not designed!) for doing what humans do but that doesn't mean the humanoid shape is appropriate for every solution.

      I bet it doesn't say 'Danger Will Robinson either'!

      • I guess my point is that the word 'hand' should be used a bit more cautiously.
        As I stated, this is just a very small set of pliers.

        I think most humans will understand a 'hand' to have the following characteristics:
        Has a 'palm' in which to collect items (most significantly - items smaller than the hand itself)
        Has a wrist around which the palm and fingers may rotate.
        Has at least two digits with differing axis of motion (apposable).

        I suppose we could allow a single fork tine to be called a 'hand' if we real
        • I agree, I was expecting to see more than two "fingers" but saw nothing because TFV is slashdotted. So, ignoring TFV, if the "hand" is a pair of "tweezers" then this is the "world's smallest robotic hand" [].

          I think the real breakthrough is not size, I mean how the hell do they make a "fist" with two fingers and no palm?
          • by Kamots ( 321174 )
            So you're aware, the video shows 4 "fingers", arranged with each at a 90 degree offset to the other. So in a sense you do have a palm (the area that the 4 fingers are mouonted around)
            • Like I said I TFV is slashdotted. As you describe it, it sounds more like one of those slot machine "hands" that pick up prizes, I hope their tiny version has a better grip.
            • the video shows 4 "fingers", arranged with each at a 90 degree offset to the other
              Well, no actually, unfortunately the three still images that you refer to as a 'video' are of such poor quality, that I thought there were only two 'fingers'. Upon very careful review I can make out no more than three 'fingers'.

              None-the-less, I stand by my statement, this does not, to my mind, represent a hand.
              It does not appear to be able to be used as a cup like the human palm can.
              It does not appeat to have a single
      • by x2A ( 858210 )
        "Maybe you need to expand your imagination more - or relax your difinition of a hand"

        Or maybe relax the definition of the word 'hammer' and call it that?

        Or just not use misleading words and expect people to change what the word means to fit the fact you wanna call it something? If there are words that more accurately describe something, less ambigiously, they're the one's that you should use.

    • by EnderGT ( 916132 )
      more than three digits, one of them apposable, in a somewhat radial arrangement

      RTFA and watch the video more closely - there are four "fingers", arranged radially, with each pair in opposition. Where's the problem?

    • by Ruphuz ( 817865 )
      The Simpsons seem to do fine with their current hand configuration.
  • the microhand hand has four fingers

    Ala Simpsons and Family Guy..Is it even as smart as homer Simpson or Peter Griffin?

  • This [] is their next project.
    • by Laur ( 673497 )
      They're going to write an error message in German using very small pens?
      • by SeaFox ( 739806 )
        No, that's called I should have used Coral cache. It was the first photo on this [] Google image search.
  • Smaller hand (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coke_scp ( 892822 )
    IINAMHS, but the world's smallest hand be used to build a yet smaller hand?
    • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

      But I expect you are AHR (a Heinlein Reader). See post below on "Waldo"
    • >IINAMHS, but the world's smallest hand be used to build a yet smaller hand?

      This is actually an idea described by Feynman in his lecture 'There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom,' for which he is often cited as being the first to explore the idea of nanotechnology.

      The text is available here. []

      I'll quote a little of the applicable bit:


      Now comes the interesting question: How do we make such a tiny mechanism? I leave that to you. However, let me suggest one weird possibility. You know, in th

  • But all i see is 3 frames of nonsense... When i think of a video, i think of something i can comprehend. Maybe i should look at the animation sober...
  • Waldo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seanellis ( 302682 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @04:32AM (#16482039) Homepage Journal

    10 posts and no-one's mentioned "Waldo" yet?

    From Wikipedia (Waldo (short story) []):

    A typical illustration of the tools in the story is when Waldo needs to do micro-dissection on the scale of cellular walls. He uses human-sized waldos to make smaller waldos, then those to make even smaller waldos, and continues the series until he has some small enough to work at the cellular scale. It doesn't occur to him to use conventional fabrication techniques to skip straight down to the smallest size.

    The primary application for these hands is obvious: build even smaller ones!

    • A very cool application for these tiny hands would be a machine capable of splicing breaks in submarine fiber cable links. Tiny hands to manipulate the fiber ends for splicing/polishing, etc.

      And yes, for medical applications... imagine a few tiny hands attached to a tiny craft flowing in the bloodstream crushing the odd bit of cholesteral or smashing blood clots into bits manageble by the body. Not as a curative, mind you, but rather as full time, always present devices. There are so many tremendous applica
  • Looks nice, I do however not yet see a good application for this in the real world. Anyone can come up with a good real world example where we could use this?

    Or is this more some theoretic research, which do's not have a goal to be used in a real working situation?

    • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
      I can see an obvious application!

      We could use this tiny artificial hand to assemble an even tinier artificial hand ..... which we could then use to assemble an artificial hand which was tinier still ..... and so on, and so on, until we're down to the scale of manipulating individual atoms!
    • by BuzzSkyline ( 905506 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @05:06AM (#16482183) Homepage
      Microsurgery? Lab-on-a-chip processing? Little assembly lines where the robot hand gently grabs an ovum, fertilizes it with the help of another little hand, and moves it to the nursery where we grow clones to take over the world? Just a thought.
  • by Rulke ( 629278 )
    I don't know, looks like it can't do much more then grab and hold.. Maybe build it into traps for rats and mice... the hand would grab their balls... and neuter them. Would that be considered a humane trap? atleast they aren't killed :)
    • Actually a miniature mouse trap would work even better. Just center it infront of the mouse hole. You can tell if it's working if their squeaking is higher pitched.
  • Finally! (Score:2, Funny)

    by dangitman ( 862676 )
    Midgets can now get the handjobs they so desperately need.
    • Dammit, scooped. I was going to go with:

      Slashdotters can finally get the level of friction they need!

      But yours is OK, too, I guess.
  • by ms1234 ( 211056 )
    A three frame video!
  • Who cares? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Symp0sium ( 961148 )
    I want to see the worlds smallest robotic foot!
  • The concept of a tiny hand could be useful in medical operations, but there is no cost posted in TFA or an idea of what's needed to control the hand. This is not going to be practical if the requirements for running the small hand are bigger than a real hand.
  • Deceptive video? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @07:13AM (#16482707)
    Hmm, a few questions for these guys:

    (1) Why is the "video" not a video, but just a few stills?
    (2) Why does the video not show the "hand" letting go of the object?

    A cynical person might suspect

    (1) The "video" was selected from a larger sequence, some frames of which might not show the hand acting so gracefully.

    (2) They didnt show the hand letting go of an object because they havent figured out how to undo the effects of surface tension, which spell doom for nano-manipulators.

    When they show the "hand" in full-frame unedited video, picking up and letting go of several objects, then maybe they'll have some credibility.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) *
      1. I would think speed. I Bet this thing runs very slowly and that took probably 10-15 minutes to do.
      2. They didn't get that part to work yet.
  • Moo (Score:1, Troll)

    by Chacham ( 981 )
    Isn't the smallest hand just one card? Someone played that card a long time ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...before they can claim it's the smallest - this [] puts it to shame.

    (Yes, it's holding a ball 65um across)

    For more info read the section on Cambridge University Engineering department's photo competition page []

  • What good is this? Are they going to put a vending/arcade machine in the movie theater lobby that dispenses individual tic-tacs?

    Every Play Wins A Prize!
  • Smaller hands (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Check out the micro-tweezers at MEMS Precision Instruments []. This guy (Chris Keller) has been making grippers that can grab much much smaller objects and it's actually a commercially-available device now.
  • You know what I hate about microscopic objects? It's so hard to find them when you forget where you left them. I can't find the damn remote for my DVD player. How the heck am I supposed to find a tiny pair of microscopic hands in the effin couch cushions?

    /I'm worried that I might have a disease that makes me deny being a hypochondriac.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead