The food robots we write about here at The Spoon typically have some kind of multi-pronged gripper (or a spatula) at the ends of their articulating arms. But new research is creating more human-like hands and making Robby the Robot-type claws a thing of the past.

The New York Times has a great visual wrap up of breakthroughs that are enabling new form factors and functionality in robots. For instance, OpenAI has developed a robotic hand (complete with four fingers and thumb!) that can manipulate objects like a block; spinning, twisting or flipping it around in it’s “palm.”

Robots are also getting better at learning tasks much faster: they’re more efficient at sorting objects; choosing which method to use (gripper or suction cup) based on what they “see”; or automatically pushing items out of the way to help them deal with uncertainties.

The only disappointing part of The Times’ piece is their lack of imagination for what this new functionality could bring. The story only asks us to think of new types of robot manufacturing, like flying drones and driverless cars — which are great, but we expect robots to be a bit more… artful, and perhaps even become Michelin-star chefs.

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