bots IN BRIEF
Festo — who is famous for its SmartBird robotic seagull and elephant trunk
manipulators, among other things — has unveiled its latest bionic contraption: the
ExoHand. The ExoHand is an exoskeleton glove that you can wear to teleoperate
a separate robot hand in real time. The cool part is that the device — powered by
eight pneumatic actuators — can also be used to make your hand stronger and
reduce fatigue during repetitive tasks. Festo says the ExoHand could find
applications in manufacturing and medical therapy.
The fingers can be actively moved and their strength amplified; the operator’s
hand movements are registered and transmitted to the robotic hand in real time.
The objectives are to enhance the strength and endurance of the human hand, to
extend a human’s scope of action, and to help secure an independent lifestyle even
at an advanced age.
The ExoHand could also provide assistance in the form of force amplification
in connection with monotonous and strenuous activities in industrial assembly, for
example, or in remote manipulation in hazardous environments. With force feedback, the human operator feels what the robot
grasps and can thus grip and manipulate objects from a safe distance without having to touch them.
Due to the yielding capacity of its pneumatic components, the ExoHand offers potential in the field of service robotics. In
the rehabilitation of stroke patients, for example, it could be used as an active manual orthosis.
The exoskeleton supports the human hand from the outside and reproduces the physiological degrees of freedom – the
scope of movement resulting from the geometry of the joints.
Eight double-acting pneumatic actuators move the fingers so
that they can be opened and closed. For this purpose, non-linear
control algorithms are implemented on a CoDeSys-compliant
controller, which thus allows precise orientation of the individual
finger joints. The forces, angles, and positions of the fingers are
tracked by sensors.
The next time you find yourself in a South Korean prison, this not
especially friendly looking robot is going to be either your new best
buddy or your new worst enemy.
It's huge and presumably very expensive, but aside from a
microphone, a camera, some flashing lights, an alarm, and what looks
to be an off-the-shelf Kinect sensor, it doesn't seem to really be able
to do much.
The sophisticated part might be the software, which looks to be
able to analyze behavior and make decisions as to when to alert a
human operator that something is up.
Apparently, the next step is a robot that "conducts body
searches" which could be particularly unpleasant for the end user.
But that might be the whole idea. How likely are you to try and sneak
contraband into a prison if you encounter a robot snapping a latex glove
over its steely, probe-like fingers?
Photo by Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT.
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