Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Tiny Robotic Hand

Four-fingered gripper to aid surgery.

In a UCLA School of Engineering lab, a mechanical hand only one millimeter wide plucks a single fish egg from an ­underwater clutch. “It is the world’s smallest robotic hand and could be used to perform microsurgery,” says Chang-Jin Kim, who led its development. Unlike other tiny machines of its kind, the device (depicted at left) is flexible yet strong and is controlled by air, not electricity. The microhand has four “fingers” made of several pieces of silicon each, with polymer balloons serving as “muscles” at the joints. Each balloon is connected to narrow channels through which air is pumped. When a balloon is inflated or deflated, the angle between joints changes, making a finger contract or relax. The device is one to two years from practical use; Kim is working with a company to develop a new version, with optical fibers on the palm–a microhand with an eye–that would enable a doctor to see, allowing better control during an operation.

Multimedia

Discover how robotics is driving the future of work at EmTech Next!

Find more information and register
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.