Move over, Doc Ock.
Researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada have created a lightweight, wearable, 3-fingered robotic arm that functions almost identically to a real human arm while having a similar weight.
The downside is that the power source is connected separately and weighs a significant amount. As a result, it’s less like a fully mobile mech suit and more like a literal helping hand for tasks that don’t require much walking. A video of it in action is below:
Speaking to IEEE Spectrum, Catherine Véronneau, the lead author on the paper outlining the project, notes that to fully realize such a robotic arm, an understanding of human intent and motivations is first required.
“For instance, if the job of a supernumerary pair of arms is opening a door while the user is holding something, the controller should detect when is the right moment to open the door. So, for one particular application, it’s feasible. “
Effectively, this means the machine is programmable to perform a certain task, but will require far greater artificial intelligence to perform remotely close to our Marvel comics inspired dreams.
In testing, the arm is gentle and agile enough to pick an apple, but can also be ramped up to punch through walls. Another downside is that the arm is controlled by a second party, as seen in the video. After all, if the wearer has to control it, then what’s the point of having the additional arm? Regardless of the downsides, the wearable arm is being seen as fairly large step forward for robotics.
[h/t The Independent]