Researchers at The Verge university in Canada have designed a special robotic arm that can be placed on the wearer’s hips and uses a three-finger manipulator to perform a range of tasks,media outlet The Verge reported. The robotic arm has three degrees of freedom and can move at 3.4 meters per second, lifting up to 5 kilograms, IEE Spectrum reported. It weighs quite light, at only 4 kg, roughly the same as a human arm. But this is mainly because it uses a huge external power supply, connected via a short rope, which limits mobility.
As the video above shows, robots like this may have a wide range of tasks in the future. It can mimic the movements of the wearer and speed up the work of picking fruit or painting. It can also act as an assistant, taking things in the workshop or delivering tools. Or it can hit the wall directly.
External power does bring some limitations, but it may not be a problem if the wearer is working in one place (most likely in the workshop), or if the power supply can move on wheels and may even follow the wearer on its own.
However, it is important to remember that these are now very hypothetical use cases. The technology is not yet ready for delivery to the factory or shop floor, and control is perhaps the biggest limit. As the demo video shows, the robotic arm is now operated by a third party. Creating a robotic arm smart enough to function without human instructions is a very difficult task and may take a long time.
But what such a research project can do is help engineers solve other potential problems, such as how to compensate for the inertia of a robotic arm when it moves quickly or powerfully. As you can see in the wall-smashing section of the video, this can cause the wearer to lose its balance. The solution here is to place the arm next to the wearer’s mass center and secure the setting with a rigid seat belt.