MIT Designs Powerful "Doc Ock" Limbs
June 5, 2014 8:10 PM
comment(s) - last by
Project aims to give manufacturing and construction industries a pair of extra hands
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
International Conference on Robotics and Automation
(ICRA) in Hong Kong saw a number of interesting presentations, but perhaps the most exciting and attention grabbing was the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Supernumerary Robotic Limbs
(SRLs) project. MIT presented not one, but three papers on upcoming robotics limbs that could potentially revolutionize the construction and manufacturing industries.
I. A New Kind of Limb
The robotic limbs project is led by
Professor H. Harry Asada
, the principle investigator of MIT's
. Rather than seeking to replace or
augment standard human arms
, the goal the SRL effort is to give a human a second set of arms.
Ph.D candidate Federico Parietti is handling much of the design duties of the mechanical system. Baldin Llorens-Bonilla, another Ph.D candidate with the lab is among the students working on the algorithms that drive the limbs.
eloquently summarizes the value of the project versus traditional exoskeletons,
The researchers say that the constraint of an exoskeleton is that by definition it's bound to the body of the user: no matter what the most advantageous orientation for your limbs might be, the exoskeleton is putting all of its force wherever you decide to put your arms and legs. Having limbs that are powered yet completely separate gives the system many more option for helping you out.
The prototype shown at the ICRA shows off the
substantial advances that have been made in prosthetics
in recent years. The system weighs only 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) and can be comfortably worn via a backpack-like harness, which has straps over the shoulders and a strap around the user's waist.
MIT's Supernumary Robotic Limbs can act as an extra pair of arms or as an extra set of legs.
[Image Source: d'Arbeloff Lab]
The limbs are mounted to the central back-like machinery just over the iliac crest, the thick edge of the hipbone. This positioning prevents the system from interfering with the user's natural motions. It also allows the system to act both as
a pair of extra legs
a pair of extra arms
The joint positioning is driven by flat, brushless DC motors, which feed into circular hollow-section polyurethane torsion bars that modulate the transfer of force into Series Viscoelastic Actuators (SVAs). The system is designed to deliver a high amount of torque in order to make it a practical tool for the construction and manufacturing industries.
The limbs feature five degrees of freedom and customizable "end effectors" ranging from simple caps (for pushing or propping up objects) to
more complex design such as (eventually) prosthetic hands
II. Mankind's Little Helper
The limbs are aimed to act like a human-like helper to the user. They take cues from the user's limb movements, position, and muscle exertion. To detect those cues the system use exotic algorithms -- colored Petri nets and partial least squares predictions. While they may eventually employ more exotic hybrid forms of control that
would allow the user to control the limbs mentally
, for now the limbs are autonomous.
They mirror the user's motions waiting for the opportunity to assist. For example if the user is holding a heavy object – such as a panel to mount to the ceiling or a door frame -- they helpfully swing into place, propping up the object so the user can free at least one of their hands to do mounting work.
Mr. Llorens-Bonilla has developed so-called "behavioral modes", which detect and assist in common motions. He comments in an interview with
s Spectrum magazine:
Once we combine the most significant behavioral modes we are able to control the robot such that, from the wearer's perspective, it behaves like an extension of his own body.
The result is an uncanny odd couple of human and robot that resembles the exoskeletons seen in movies like
The Edge of Tomorrow
Another key innovation on the project, which was presented at last year's ICRA conference, was the use of sensors to counteract shaky users. Writes the lab:
Although the SRL has the potential to provide the wearer with greater strength, higher accuracy, flexibility, and dexterity, its control performance is hindered by unpredictable disturbances due to involuntary motions of the wearer, which include postural sway and physiological tremor.
[Image Source: d'Arbeloff Lab]
The solution involves a sensor at the effector and multiple encoders at the joints. The system uses advanced digital filters to correct for operator shakiness.
III. Commercial Partners Salivate at the Possibilities
In the near term the limbs could play a crucial role in labor intensive manufacturing duties. It's no coincidence that much of the group's research is funded by some of America's largest high-tech manufacturers, including the Boeing Comp. (
Boeing has a keen interest in finding a way to reduce stress on its workforce. Much of assembling a commercial jumbo jet consists of fastening large, bulky parts. Workers must squat, bend over, carry heavy objects or brace up frames during the construction process. Many of the workers are aging and having careers cut short by injuries. Robotic limbs could reduce injuries, which would both cut costs for Boeing and improve the quality of life for its workers.
A worker uses the limbs to prop up an airframe during aircraft construction.
[Image Source: d'Arbeloff Lab]
These robots are even quite the gentlemen, opening the door for their human companion if it notices them carrying a heavy object.
The robotic limbs can even open a door for you. [Image Source: d'Arbeloff Lab]
The project is reaching a very mature state. While the researchers did not comment on how long before it was deployed in a commercial capacity, given the usefulness of it, it seems likely to be sooner rather than later.
And why stop at two? Eventually the system could offer four, six, or even eight limbs. Looks like the humble human is evolving into new forms with the help of modern robotics.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
Waiting for the ultra-light version
6/10/2014 12:12:02 PM
Could use a miniature version when soldering on some projects, especially when dealing non-PCB projects or hand wiring there would be an advantage to having a Neptunian physique. "Bam!"
"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
Engineering Students from Univ. of Cincinnati Works on Leg Exoskeleton
November 12, 2013, 6:33 PM
Titan Arm Biceps Boosting Exoskeleton Scores $45K from Dyson
November 7, 2013, 7:37 PM
First Thought-Controlled BIonic Leg Aims to Help 1 Million American Amputees
September 30, 2013, 2:16 PM
I-Limb Robotic Hand Gets iPhone Support, Improved Thumb
April 11, 2013, 6:02 PM
Monkey Merges With Machine, Uses Robotic Arm to Perform Tasks
May 29, 2008, 2:30 PM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Researchers Hope to Find "Exotic" Lifeforms Inside Crater of Dinosaur Killing Meteor
April 14, 2015, 8:47 PM
Mathematician's Sociological Formulation May Explain the "Hipster Paradox"
April 14, 2015, 1:13 PM
Most Popular Articles
Samsung Gear S2 Borrows Circular Icons From Apple Watch
August 21, 2015, 2:48 PM
Kentucky Man Faces up to 10 Years in Prison for Shooting Drone Trespasser
August 13, 2015, 2:58 PM
Snapchat Made $3-5 Million Last Year, But That's Not as Bad as it Sounds
August 19, 2015, 12:25 PM
Exclusive: If Intel and Micron's "Xpoint" is 3D Phase Change Memory, Boy Did They Patent It
July 29, 2015, 10:52 PM
Future of Lumia Uncertain as Microsoft Lays Off 2,300, Closes 1 of 3 Finnish Offices
August 24, 2015, 6:14 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information