Squishy Robotic Hand Plays Super Mario Like a Pro


We’re not sure if robots will indeed take over and replace humans someday, but they are now capable of copying a lot of our activities, including our hobbies. Take this robotic hand for instance, which can play Super Mario Bros. and was even able to complete a level in under two minutes.

The machine was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Maryland, led by Prof. Ryan D. Sochol, and it is what they are now calling a “soft robot”. What that means is that this is not your Terminator machine or some other S.F.-inspired pile of metal in the shape of a human. It is in fact a squishy, cute robotic arm made with a 3D printer, of soft materials. There’s integrated fluidic circuitry inside it that makes the hand move when fluid is pumped through the circuit.

Its developers explained that the robot was inspired by the look of turtles. It has three fingers that can move independently and a compressor that pumps air into it. Based on the level of air pressure applied, the fingers of the robotic hand move accordingly.

The robotic hand uses several types of fluidic transistors that help move the fingers depending on that pressure, making Mario run and jump in his mission to save the princess. A computer program was also written to assist the robot, with a live graph displaying the pressures inputted into the machine.

While it’s not the most skillful player out there in terms of speed, the soft robotic hand was capable of completing the first level of the Nintendo game in under 90 seconds. However, for now, that doesn’t represent a threat for hardcore gamers, given that someone managed to beat the entire game and master all levels in under five minutes.

Of course, the Super Mario challenge was not the main purpose of this robotic hand, with the team of researchers now working on further improving the technology for applications such as surgical tools, rehabilitation devices, and customizable prosthetics.