British engineers say they are just 18 months away from a remotely controlled highly dextrous hand that could lead to huge breakthroughs in telepresence tasks ranging from hazardous materials disposal to bomb disassembly. Controlled by 20 motors mounted below the wrist, UK-based Shadow Robot Company's C6M2 hand mimics the movements of a hand wearing a special glove, allowing anyone to control the robotic hands without specialized training.
Each motor in the hand corresponds to a joint in the human hand, lending the humanoid hand very lifelike movements. The challenge, researchers say, is getting the pressure in the robot hand synced up with the pressure of real touch. For tasks like bomb disposal touch sensitivity will be key, and the company plans to spend the next 18 months to two years getting it exactly right.
If they can get it right, the hand would be a robotics breakthrough. While current bomb disposal robots require handlers that are specifically trained to manipulate their movements, a humanoid hand that functions smoothly under direction from a five-fingered glove would not only allow for more intuitive, natural movements, but would allow virtually anyone to step into the role of robot handler with little or no special training.
Such a hand doesn't just have military applications; it's easy to see how something like this could be a boon for remote surgery, cleanroom environments, and extravehicular activities in space as well. Enjoy a cup of joe with CM62 below.
The real question is, how well can it shake hands?
what would really make this useful is if they had some sort of force/pressure feedback in the controller's glove so you could feel when you were picking something..would be a lot better than sight
One thing that is already done with surgeon controlled telepresence devices in medical operations is to allow filters to act on the operators hand movements, so in the case of surgery, the minute shakes that even the best surgeons have can be cancelled out from the actions performed by the robot, or "zones" can be pre-defined where the robot must not go to even if the surgeon moves his hand in that direction (to avoid accidentally cutting a particular blood vessel within a 3-dimensional mass). Telepresence devices have so many applications, not just in the utility of "telepresence", but in improving the inputs from clumsy human hands in tasks requiring work on the small scale of using a light touch.
Just wait until these things get used on the assembly line. If you had someone who was used to doing that job, the robotic hand could just record the movements done by them and rinse and repeat indefinitely.
Of course that would be a lot of jobs lost, so...
how about a very good hand for an actual robot?