Researchers at MIT have crafted a wrist-mounted robot that provides the wearer with two extra fingers assisting them in their daily chores.
‘Every day, we use various tools, say a knife and fork and we drive a car and, if we use these tools for a long time, you see that those tools are just an extension of your body,’ said Harry Asada, the Ford Prof of Engineering in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
‘That is exactly what we would like to do with robotics, you have extra fingers and extra arms.
‘If you have control and can communicate with them very well, you feel that they are just an extension of your body,’
The researchers believe people wearing the device may feel the robotic fingers are part of their body. Like a tool you have been using for a long time, you feel the robot as an extension of your hand.
The gadget worn around one’s wrist, works exactly like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb. Working independently of the user’s command, the device relies on an algorithm that enables it to move in sync with the user’s fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes.
For now, the robot mimics the grasping of a hand, closing in and spreading apart in response to a human’s fingers.
But Wu would like to take the robot one step further, controlling not just position, but also force.
‘Right now we’re looking at posture, but it’s not the whole story,’ Wu says.
‘There are other things that make a good, stable grasp. With an object that looks small but is heavy, or is slippery, the posture would be the same, but the force would be different, so how would it adapt to that? That’s the next thing we’ll look at.’
After you’ve been using it for a while, it gets adapted to match your preferences.
Asada says “’This is a prototype, but we can shrink it down to one-third its size, and make it foldable,’ Asada says.
‘We could make this into a watch or a bracelet where the fingers pop up, and when the job is done, they come back into the watch. Wearable robots are a way to bring the robot closer to our daily life’