Four fingers and a thumb constitutes a normal hand. You can hold a coffee mug in one hand and stir it with other. But the researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology think that our performance would be significantly increased if we had an upgrade on the number of fingers. Had there been two more fingers, you could hold your drink and stir it with the same hand.
The researchers at MIT have developed a robot that gives two extra fingers to the wearer. It basically looks like a glove while the machinery is mounted around the wrist. The two extra fingers will help the people with limited dexterity-allowing them to open the lid while holding the box, or twisting off the cap while holding the bottle, using same hand.
The research process began with the realization that the everyday items like knife and fork are the extensions of our own body. The scientists, hence, create something in robotics that would be the extension of body. The glove and extended fingers sync with the normal fingers. There need not be given any commands to control the extra fingers. The robot intelligently responds to the normal fingers and works accordingly.
“You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers,” said the glove’s creator Harry Asada, of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The researchers believe that after some time people will start treating it as a part of their body.
Asada and MIT graduate student Faye Wu first analyzed the grasping motion of fingers using a glove with motion-reading sensors. The tracked down all the motions to two basic movements: curling the fingers together and then, rotating them to fit the object shape and size.
They, hence, developed an algorithm that would help the robotic fingers to respond to the data being sent from the motion-sensors on the remaining fingers. So for now, the robot mimics the grasping action of human fingers and the actuators exert the same force as the human fingers would.
Wu plans to take the robot one step further by controlling not only the position but the amount of force.
‘Right now we’re looking at posture, but it’s not the whole story,’ Wu says.
‘There are other things that make a good, stable grasp. With an object that looks small but is heavy, or is slippery, the posture would be the same, but the force would be different, so how would it adapt to that? That’s the next thing we’ll look at.’
They also aim at a smaller size in future. It would be amazing if they can shrink it to the size of a wrist watch or bracelet where the fingers would pop up only when needed.