Boris, the robotic manipulator, who was revealed at the British Science Festival 2014

Boris is one of the first robots in the world that can dexterously grasp unfamiliar objects. Professor Jeremy Wyatt and his team have taught Boris various ways of grasping objects - for example, a power grip, using its whole hand to curve around an object, or a pinch grip, which uses two or three fingers. Boris is then able to learn the different grips and adapt them to other unfamiliar objects without breaking or dropping them. The researchers are already working on commercialization of this research.

Professor Wyatt, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science, said: ‘It is fairly commonplace to program robots to pick up particular objects and move them around – factory production lines are a good example of this. But when those objects vary in size or shape, robots tend to get clumsy. The system we have developed allows the robot to assess the object and generate hundreds of different grasp options. That means the robot is able to make choices about the best grasp for the object it has been told to pick up and it doesn’t need to be continually re-trained each time the object changes.’

Boris is part of a larger project called PaCMan that is concerned with making robot manipulation work better in unstructured settings such as homes, offices, or hazardous environments.