MIT is building Doctor Octopus' robot arms

Shoulder-mounted robotic arms track your movements and help you heft heavy loads
"Nothing will stand in our way! NOTHING!"

"Nothing will stand in our way! NOTHING!"

MIT seems determined to bring Spider-Man's rogues' gallery of villains to life.

Not content with creating robotic "smart sand", MIT researchers are now working on creating a working version of Doctor Octopus' robot arms. Researchers at the d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology have developed a set of Supernumerary Robotic Limbs that augment your own arms – one shoulder-mounted model and one waist-mounted version.

MIT Supernumerary Robotic Limbs

"Steal it? No, no, no, I'm not a criminal... That's right... the real crime would be not to finish what we started."

Of course, you need to be able to control your extra arms without using, well, your arms. Instead, the SRLs base their movement on the position of your limbs, using a pair of inertial measurement units mounted on your wrists. Using gyro and accelerometer data, the limbs can predict what action will be the most helpful; if you raise your arms above your hair, the SRLs assume you're trying to hold something up.

If you've watched Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, you'll recall that Doc Ock's intelligent robot limbs did exactly the same thing, before taking control of his mind and turning him into a supervillain. We're just saying.

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MIT and funding partners Boeing envisage the arms being used by factory workers, either as arm or leg supports, to avoid excessive strain when working with heavy loads – for example, a worker carrying a box could use the robot limbs to open a door, or use the waist-mounted limbs as a bracing support for their legs. Impressive, and practical too.

Mind you, if MIT's next announcement is talking up its exciting new achievements in the fields of pumpkin bombs and Goblin Gliders, we'll start getting really worried.

[Source: IEEE Spectrum via PSFK]

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