And his startup, Robot Rebuilt, is out making the rounds of Boston venture capital firms.
The new robot, Tactico, builds upon work done at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and supervised by Rod Brooks, the iRobot co-founder who is now at Rethink Robotics. Torres-Jara, now an assistant professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, says that he was "inspired by the ridges humans have on their fingers. We wanted to make a robotic hand that would mimic that, and achieve some of the same sensitivity our hands have."
While Tactico would have cameras to help it "see" an object in front of it, it would use those aqua-colored pads on its fingers to find the edges of the object, sort of the way humans use their fingers when groping in the dark for an alarm clock on a bedside table. Inside each pad is a sensor that can detect force, and understand which direction the force is coming from. That, says Torres-Jara, enables Tactico to pick up anything from eggs to wine glasses to paper cylinders.
One application, he says, would be moving prototype parts around as they are being formed by a CNC machine. Another would be pipetting liquid samples in a lab. "Right now, PhDs come in at 3 AM to take care of their experiments," Torres-Jara says. "Our robot could do that."
Robot Rebuilt is in the midst of negotiating a technology license from MIT, and Torres-Jara says it will likely be based in Cambridge, where he lives. "We're starting with the hand, but we're also working on building an arm," he says.
Tactico picking up a "Go" stone from a gameboard:
Finding and grasping a ceramic mug:
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About Scott Kirsner Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
June 24: Web Innovators Group
An evening of demos, plus two presentations from mobile execs Micah Adler of Fiksu and Wayne Chang of Twitter Boston.
June 25: TEDxBoston
The oldest and biggest of the locally-organized TED events is back, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Tickets are free, but tough to get. Also streams on the web and airs on WBUR.
July 16: Tech, Drugs & Rock and Roll
Barbecue, live music, and a spotlight on new technologies and science coming out of Boston University.