A Japanese robot maker on Tuesday unveiled what it called the world's first prototype of an artificial hand with "air muscles" that can do even delicate work like picking up a raw egg.
Squse, a Kyoto-based robot and factory automation manufacturer, said it has developed a 400-gramme (14 ounce) hand with five human-sized fingers with artificial fibres that can be controlled by air pressure.
"So far, robots have an image of helping people do heavy lifting, but we aim at delicate work as a human hand can do," company president Mikio Shimizu said.
During a demonstration, the prototype hand grasped a pen and picked up a raw egg without breaking it.
The firm plans to ship some 50 prototypes to research institutes and firms, with plans to market them overseas in the near future, Shimizu said.
Air muscles may be key technology for developing new types of artificial hands in the future, said Hiroshi Yokoi, associate professor of precision engineering at the University of Tokyo.
"Compared to motor-driven ones, air muscle hands are extremely light and less noisy," Yokoi said, adding that they may be in practical use in about five years' time.