This robot hand can play Super Mario Bros, and it’s pretty good at it


We know that many sci-fi minded folks are worried about the inevitable android-fueled apocalypse. But if they’re just keen to kick back and play some retro video games, like this robot hand made by a team of scientists at the University of Maryland, then we’re cool with that. 

The hand was created as part of the team’s experimentation in the field of ‘soft robotics’. ‘Soft robotics’ focuses on creating inflatable and flexible robots powered by fluid or air rather than electricity. These have myriad safety and adaptability benefits, and researchers are currently looking at ways they can use them in medical fields.

Try your (robot) hand at some games

Traditionally, precisely controlling soft robotics using fluids has been particularly challenging. The Maryland team came up with a solution to this by 3D printing fully assembled parts with integrated fluid circuits. 

“Previously, each finger of a soft robotic hand would typically need its own control line, which can limit portability and usefulness. But by 3D printing the soft robotic hand with our integrated ‘fluidic transistors’, it can play Nintendo based on just one pressure input,” explains one of the team members, Joshua Hubbard, in a press release

By changing the level of input, the team can precisely control the hand’s movements. By alternating between off, low, medium, and high, the team can operate the hand with impressive dexterity. To demonstrate this, the team used the first level of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros.

The hand was able to beat the level in under 90 seconds, something many humans still struggle to do. But why did the Maryland team choose a video game as a basis for displaying their hand’s capabilities? For one, the precise timing, jumping, obstacle avoiding, bobbing and weaving required by the game serves as a great test for the hand’s precision and accuracy. And for two… video games are fun. One has to wonder if a more advanced version could take on something like Super Mario 64 one day. 


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