Japanese Roboticists Develop Additional Pair of Robotic Arms for Humans
A bit strangely, the four-armed character in every comic book or fantasy story is often a villain. The Four-Armed Terror. Forearm. Goro. But scientists from Japan’s University of Tokyo and Keio University are hoping to change the bruised reputation of four-arm enthusiasts.
They announced this week their new project called MetaLimbs, which amount to an extra set of robotic arms that they feel will augment what it means to be a human.
“Our scientific motivation for this project was to explore how additional artificial limbs would affect body perception, especially which configurations would make a user perceive physical alterations of his or her body as part of itself, and how our abilities and activities could be enhanced by the use of such body augmentations,” says Keio University’s Tomoya Sasaki, who led the project.
The prototype, which rests just beneath a person’s biological arms, is attached via a small backpack and is controlled by motion sensors attached to their legs and feet. So when you bend or pivot your leg, the corresponding robotic arm will follow along. To grab onto something, just bend your toes.
Even though a video implies that MetaLimbs would allow people to open a door with their hands full, the leg-based sensors will generally require that people sit while using their new arms – basically trading in the use of their legs for other limbs that might be more useful at the moment.
The video also shows people using their new robotic arms to grab and hold onto objects, hold a canvas while they draw with their biological arms, and even includes one brave soul using his MetaLimbs to use a soldering iron on a small piece of circuitry.
Because MetaLimbs are currently a proof-of-concept prototype, it is unclear if or when a commercially-viable version of the robotic arms will hit the market. However, the Japanese scientists will present MetaLimbs at the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies showcase in Los Angeles at the end of July and are likely to have more updates then.