Jeff Bezos Plays With Huge Robotic Hands, Calls Them 'Weirdly Natural'

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos laughed loudly as he toyed with a pair of large robotic hands this week, reportedly describing the experience as "weirdly natural."

Bezos—who is now one of the richest men in the world—was captured on video experimenting with a so-called "telerobot," a system in which a person wearing special gloves can control the lifelike motions of robot hands and receive haptic real-time feedback, the sensation of touch.

The clips, uploaded to Twitter by GeekWire's aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle, showed Bezos picking up items using the hands, including a drinking cup and a small football.

"This is really cool," he is heard saying, joking with the audience that he could not solve a Rubik's Cube that was on the demonstration table during the re: MARS tech event.

"No thank you, I can't even do that with my hands," he noted, before again laughing loudly. In a second clip, Bezos waves the gloves, shakes a person's hand and gives a thumbs up in the gloves—motions that are mimicked perfectly by the cutting edge robotic technology.

"That is really impressive," Bezos said. "The tactile feedback is tremendous." Alongside the two videos, Boyle, who was in attendance at the four-day conference, tweeted yesterday: "After trying out the haptic robotic hand... Jeff Bezos says the experience felt 'weirdly natural.'"

Reddit users seemed to enjoy Bezos' participation, as some joked the robot looked like it could be taken directly from a Hollywood comicbook movie. "This looks like one accident away from a super villain origin story," one user stated. Another account added: "Pretty sure this is how Spider-Man PS4 started off, it's all fun and games until he asks for it to be implanted into his spine."

The futuristic product is being designed by Seattle-based tech company HaptX in partnership with Shadow Robot Company and SynTouch, GeekWire reported.

Each start-up has a role: HaptX provides the haptic feedback gloves, Shadow Robot specializes in the dexterous robotic hand and SynTouch leads with the biomimetic tactile sensors.

"The new technology enables unprecedented precision remote-control of a robotic hand," according to a media release from the joint project that was published Tuesday.

"Combining touch with teleoperation in this way is ground-breaking and points to future applications where we might choose or need to perform delicate actions at a distance, e.g. bomb disposal, deep-sea engineering or even surgery performed across different states."

In a recent demonstration, HaptX showed the robot has scale. In a test detailed in Wired, a glove worn in San Francisco produced a touch sensation from a robot hand as far away as London.

Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos provides the keynote address at the Air Force Association's Annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Oxen Hill, MD, on September 19, 2018. This week the CEO toyed with robotic hands during the re: MARS event in Las Vegas. Getty/JIM WATSON/AFP
Jeff Bezos Plays With Huge Robotic Hands, Calls Them 'Weirdly Natural' | Tech & Science