In a remarkable discovery, researchers from the University of Bristol have uncovered a simple yet transformative solution for enhancing robotic grasping. By harnessing the power of an easy-to-make sponge-jamming device, scientists have successfully replicated the delicate touch and variable stiffness of human hands, enabling robots to handle fragile items with precision.While robots are known for their agility and versatility, their inherent rigidity often hinders their ability to delicately grasp objects like eggs. Variable-stiffness devices offer promising solutions to address this challenge, reducing damage on hard robots or improving the load capacity of soft robots. The recent study presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2023, titled "A Silicone-sponge-based Variable-stiffness Device," demonstrates the potential of a silicone sponge in achieving variable stiffness.Lead author Tianqi Yue, hailing from the University of Bristol's Department of Engineering Mathematics, elucidates the significance of stiffness, also referred to as softness, in contact scenarios. Highlighting the key distinction between humans and robotic arms, Yue emphasizes that our soft tissues enveloping rigid bones naturally mitigate the impact on delicate objects. The research team successfully developed a soft device with variable stiffness, designed to be mounted on the end of a robotic arm, facilitating safe interaction between robots and objects.The silicone sponge, a cost-effective and easily fabricated material, shares similarities with everyday cleaning sponges. When compressed, the sponge stiffens, enabling its transformation into a variable-stiffness device. Such a device holds immense potential for industrial robots, enabling them to grip jellies, eggs, and other fragile substances without causing damage. Moreover, it can enhance the safety of human-robot interaction in service robot applications.Mr. Yue highlights the advantages of the sponge-based variable-stiffness device, noting its affordability and lightweight nature. This breakthrough innovation opens up novel possibilities in various industries, including robotics polishing and ultrasound imaging, where tunable-stiffness requirements are essential.Moving forward, the research team aims to expand the device's capabilities by achieving variable stiffness in multiple directions, including rotation. This advancement would further enhance the grasp versatility and dexterity of robots, unlocking new realms of applications and augmenting their performance.