“It can be a pain for workers to sort recycling, both because of the safety and the sheer monotony of it. But how do you get robots to do the job when they can’t always tell the difference between a can and a cardboard tube? For MIT CSAIL, it’s simple: give the robots a sense of touch. Its researchers have developed a recycling robot, RoCycle, that uses sensors in its hand to determine the nature of an item and sort it accordingly. A strain sensor gauges an object’s size, while two pressure sensors determine how squishy that object may be, whether it’s easily-crushed paper or more rigid plastic. It can even detect the presence of metal, since the sensors are conductive.

The hands themselves are made out of…”