NASA and GM develop power-assisted Robo-Glove
By Ben Coxworth
March 13, 2012
Having trouble getting the lid off that pickle jar? Well, perhaps the Human Grasp Assist device can help. Designed through a collaboration between GM and NASA - and also known as Robo-Glove or K-Glove - the device is based on grasping technology initially developed for the hands of the space-going Robonaut 2. Essentially a power-assisted work glove, Robo-Glove is designed to minimize repetitive stress injuries in both astronauts and autoworkers.
Robonaut 2, for those who don't know, is a humanoid robot that is currently helping out with tasks aboard the International Space Station. It has actuators in each of its fingers, along with pressure sensors that give it a simulated sense of touch.
Robo-Glove likewise has actuators in the upper sections of each finger, along with pressure sensors. When the sensors detect that an object is being grasped by the user, the actuators cause the glove's fingers' synthetic tendons to retract, pulling them into a gripping position and holding them there until further notice. In this way, the user doesn't have to strain to maintain their grip, thus protecting them from injury.
The first prototype was completed last March, which a second version following three months later. Both versions weigh about two pounds (0.9 kg), include a small display for programming and diagnostics, and run off a belt-mounted lithium-ion battery pack designed for use with power tools. A third version is currently in the works, which should be lighter and less bulky.
Tests performed with the existing gloves have indicated that users could indeed hold their grip longer, and more comfortably. It is estimated that if a task ordinarily required a human worker to assert 15 to 20 pounds (6.8 to 9 kg) of gripping force, only five to ten pounds (2.3 to 4.5 kg) would be required if the Robo-Glove were being used.
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