The German company Festo was inspired by the elephant trunk to develop a bionic arm.
Called the Bionic Handling Assistant, the free-moving "third hand system," as Festo calls it, has plenty of uses in situtations that require support from machines. That can include medical technology, rehabilitation and as an aid for the handicapped, as well as in agriculture, private homes and educational institutes.
Festo also hopes its invention will be used widely in industrial practices, particularly as a handling system to support assembly processes.
Just as an elephant can stretch its trunk in any direction to reach out and grab something, so too can Festo's invention. The end of the bionic "trunk" is quite a bit different though, as it has four claws to pick up items. On its website, the company describes those claws as "fingers," and Festo says they can safely move sensitive objects around a relatively small area.
But seeing is believing. That's why Festo released a video that starts with a researcher putting an egg on a flat surface, and letting the bionic arm pick it up and move it. You can see the fingers adjust to the egg's surface, and bend slightly to secure the egg.
The bionic handling assistant is supposed to be safer for sensitive items because it's not made of metal, and it uses air pressure instead of geared motors as its actuation system, according to BotJunkie.
Bionics has already been proven to do some incredible things. Bionic technology allows paraplegics to walk again, and a woman who had her arm amputated now has a bionic arm that moves at just the will of her thoughts.
Here's the video that Festo released to show off its fully operational bionic handling assistant: