Can robotic advancements improve our motor skills? Well would you agree that twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap, and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single-handedly? Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand — or rather, fingers.
Recently, researchers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. The device, worn around one’s wrist, works essentially like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb. A novel control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer’s fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. Wearing the robot, a user could use one hand to, for instance, hold the base of a bottle while twisting off its cap.
“This is a completely intuitive and natural way to move your robotic fingers,” says Harry Asada, the Ford Professor of Engineering in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers.”
Ultimately, Asada says, with some training people may come to perceive the robotic fingers as 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.” He hopes that the two-fingered robot may assist people with limited dexterity in performing routine household tasks, such as opening jars and lifting heavy objects. He and graduate student Faye Wu presented a paper on the robot this week at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in Berkeley, Calif.
Innovations like this are so exciting the see, and it just opens up some many inspiring possibilities!