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10 robots that can give you a hand

04 Nov 2014  | Ann R. Thryft

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Bionic Handling Assistant

(Source: Festo)

Inspired by the way an elephant's trunk moves and grasps objects, Festo's Bionic Handling Assistant has 11 DOF that let it move freely and precisely in all directions. The flexible assistant system's precise gripping tool can grasp objects autonomously, without requiring manual operation or programming. Its hand axis has a ball joint and a gripper module with adaptive fingers. The gripper module's tiny camera and integrated image recognition detect and follow the target objects, and initiate the command to grip. Speech recognition lets it accept voice commands to grip, move, and place objects.

The system's structural resilience makes it safe for use around humans: if collisions occur, the assistant immediately yields to the human, and then continues operating. Applications include rehabilitation and care for the disabled, as well as agriculture.

Extra robotic arm

(Source: MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory)

Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing pairs of shoulder- and hip-mounted extra robotic arms to act as a natural and intuitive extension of the body. The goal is for the limbs' movements to be so tightly coupled and closely coordinated with the human's own movements that the wearer forgets they're there.

The arms are being developed under the Supernumerary Robotic Limbs project to help aircraft assembly workers perform difficult or complex tasks normally requiring two people. Both versions consist of a mechatronic structure with a backpack unit containing actuators and two arms, attached to a harness with padded straps and a hip belt. Although some of the basic technology is similar to what's used for developing prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons, both versions are for healthy people who just need an extra set of arms. Shown here is a concept of how the final hip-mounted product would look.

Mars Curiosity

(Source: NASA-JPL)

The extended robotic arm of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover can be seen in this mosaic of full-resolution images from Curiosity's navigation camera, made two weeks after landing on Mars. Curiosity's arm and remote sensing mast carry scientific instruments and other tools. The three-jointed arm—mimicking shoulder, elbow and wrist—extends a total of 6.9ft from the rover's body and weighs 66lbs.

The arm's percussive drill and sample-handling system gather and prepare rock samples for two instruments located on Curiosity's body. Also at the end of the arm are a colour camera, an element-identifying spectrometer, a scoop for collecting soil samples and a brush for cleaning rock surfaces. The rover carries a total of 10 instruments, including a weather station.

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