Coffee balloon hands.

Yeah, that headline sounds kind of dada, doesn’t it? But it’s exactly what The Register is describing as the latest Pentagon robotics breakthrough:

The manipulator works by pressing the soft balloon full of loose coffee grounds down on the object to be gripped. Then the air is sucked out of the balloon, causing the coffee granules to press together and lock into a rigid shape – just as they do when vacuum-packed. The object is now securely grasped by the manipulator, and can be released as desired by ending the suction on the granule-filled bulb.

According to professor Hod Lipson, one of the boffins working on the device, it “could be on the market tomorrow”.

I love any source that uses the word “boffins” – although I admit being skeptical when they refer to anything the Pentagon does as “wacky.”