In general, robotic arms, legs, fingers, etc. are clunky, slow, and usually only able to perform basic tasks such as holding things still or steadying the user. While these are useful and welcome technological advancements, what would really go that extra mile is robotics that could be Turn the user into a superhero! Man and machine working together in harmony to make even the most unimaginable, possible, would be the ideal.
Robotic Third Arm
Well, researchers from Université de Sherbrooke, Canada, are finally ending the drought of superior robotics in the form of a waist-mounted remote-controlled hydraulic arm. This third arm has the capabilities to help the user with all kinds of tasks that a lot of people do every day without even thinking about it. Moreover, if the need arose, it does have the ability to smash through walls.
Known as a supernumerary robotic arm, this system which was created by the Canadian researchers, along with Exonetik, has 3 degrees of freedom and is fully hydraulic, actuated by magnetorheological clutches and hydrostatic transmissions, which is all quite technical. The end goal though was to create an appliance with similar performance to that of a human arm in a wide variety of industrial, as well as domestic situations. While the hydraulic system provides considerably a lot more power than an average human arm, it’s connected to the user via a tether, limiting the amount of weight the user has to actually carry, but it does limit mobility slightly.
So, it is strong, it is capable, it can do a lot of tasks, but what about the numbers? Well, weighing in at just over 4 kilograms, the robotic arm itself isn’t actually that much heavier than a real human arm. It can lift up to 5 kg in weight and has a maximum end effector speed of 3.4 meters per second, which is fast, to say the least. As an added safety feature, the arm is made with a pre-defined workspace that’s restricted so it doesn’t smash the user in the face.
While it would be incredibly cool to have an autonomous arm attached to the body, there isn’t much of that here, unfortunately. The arm is currently being controlled by a second human via a miniature handheld arm in a master-slave configuration. That said, autonomy isn’t off the table just yet. The researchers have stated that by adding some sensors, it would be entirely possible to have an arm that performs basic tasks like picking up vegetables or providing tool assistance, like having another person there to help.