Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory built a universal robotic gripper out of a balloon, coffee grounds, and a vacuum. Here is a fancy explanation of how it works:
Individual fingers are replaced by a single mass of granular material that, when pressed onto a target object, flows around it and conforms to its shape. Upon application of a vacuum the granular material contracts and hardens quickly to pinch and hold the object without requiring sensory feedback.
If they could get the price down to a couple hundred bucks and it could reach from my couch to my coffee table, I’d totally buy it. [via Co.Design]
This is the little brother of Big Dog, which was designed by USC to carry gear and not fall over. Little Dog is more about crossing difficult terrain and, looking at an older video, it’s clear how much it’s improved.
A robot is released with a location written on it. It can only go straight and at a constant speed. Without the intervention of those around it, there's no way it would make it to its destnation. The site has some documentation — videos, photos, maps — of the Tweenbot's inaugural run. I do wonder if the results would have changed with a menacing looking robot.