Is a robot:
But the major innovation is how the machine grips the ball:
In the video above, you’ll see that the mechanized arm picks up each ping-pong ball in a green sphere. That sphere is known as a Versaball and it’s filled with sand. When the Versaball is pumped with air, the sand granules can move around freely and form an impression around the objects on which the sphere is placed. Once the ball is in place on top of an object, the system sucks the air out of it, causing the sand grains to tighten around the object, thereby allowing it to be lifted.
David Pescovitz covered this technology last year:
Many of tomorrow’s robots may have more in common with beanbag chairs and bouncy houses than the hulking industrial arms in factories today. Breakthroughs in the nascent field of soft robotics, in which steel skeletons and power-hungry motors make way for textiles, are beginning to move from the laboratory to the startup world. Imagine an octopuslike robot that can squirm through rubble at a disaster site but has the strength to pull bricks off an injured person. Or a machine that can safely place an elderly person in bed. Several companies are working on these problems, frequently working from research sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon arm that seeks and funds futuristic technology. “Soft robotics has the potential to influence all kinds of robotic and machine design,” says Gerald Van Hoy, an analyst at market research firm Gartner. “It’s a key development in the evolution of robotics.”