Advanced robot hand enables cybernetic augmentation
7/11/2012 6:52 AM EDT
A German robotics company recently took the wraps off an advanced robotic hand capable of almost the same fine motor skills possessed by human beings.
Festo showed off its ExoHand at this year’s Hannover Messe industrial fair where it won second place for the Best-In-Show Hermes Award.
A normal human hand is a highly complex system, consisting of no less than 27 bones, numerous muscles and a sensory feedback loop powered by three separate nerves. Previous attempts to imitate a fully functioning human hand have produced little more than awkward, jerky results, something the ExoHand gracefully avoids.
Exohand can be worn either as an exoskeletal glove or controlled remotely as a robotic arm, able to perform complex manipulations with a surprisingly gentle touch.
The fluidity of movement is mostly down to the Exohand’s eight double-acting pneumatic actuators, which simulate a hand’s muscles, enabling the fingers to pivot and the thumb to move in toward the palm.
Additionally, the hand boasts eight linear potentiometers which act as displacement sensors, while 16 pressure sensors provide feedback on the positions, angles, and forces of each finger.
What is remarkable about the sensory feedback is that it can actually be “felt” by the person operating the arm, enabling the user to know exactly what the robot hand is feeling.
The company believes the glove will be able to play a part in several roles, both as a rehabilitation device for patients recovering from stroke or injury, or even for factory workers forced to perform repetitive tasks on a daily basis.
Festo has also developed a brain-computer interface to read electroencephalograms (EEGs) in the wearer’s head which can enable the user to open and close the hand simply through the power of focused thought.
For a look at the robotic arm in motion, check out the demo below: