MIT envisions a seven-fingered future with robotic gloves
Four fingers and a thumb too mainstream? Add a sixth and seventh finger. No X-gene required, just some help from your good old robotic glove.
The glove, a creation of Harry Asada and Faye Wu from MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, adds two fingers past your pinky and past your thumb. The additional helpers will allow you to perform double-handed tasks with a single hand, such as opening a bottle or peeling a banana.
Asada says, “You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers.”
Prosthetics of the future, perhaps?
Asada and Wu started by analysing the grasping motion of the hand using a motion-sensor glove. They found that the physiology of five-fingered gestures is very coordinated but could essentially be boiled down to two components. Any grasp, whether it be a telephone or a pen, is a combination of bringing or curling your fingers together and rotating them.
The researchers then hypothesised the same synergy exists with seven fingers. Indeed, that proves to be the case – gestures of seven fingers can also be written as a combination of curling and rotating. The resulting algorithm for the glove remarkably results in a very intuitive and mobile assistant.
This development should have interesting implications towards our relationship with technology. The glove should prove very useful for persons with limited dexterity. Asada postulates that with some training, we should be able to see the extra fingers as natural extensions of ourselves. He also states that like Siri, it could be made to learn personal preferences for gripping and adapt to the individual.
The technology has some maturing to do. For instance, the glove has yet to respond correctly when it grips something that weighs differently than it might seem. The glove also needs further miniaturisation but Asada says could be one-third its current size and foldable. He even says it could be housed in a bracelet or watch ready to pop out and assist you at any moment.
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