Robot arm that can paint and play badminton built by Canadian university

The robotic arm weighs about as much as a human arm and can lift up to five kilograms

Adam Smith
Monday 08 June 2020 21:06
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Canadian roboticists at Createk design third-arm that can pick fruit

Researchers from Université de Sherbrooke in Canada have created a robot arm that can be used by humans which has the dexterity to pick fruit.

The type of arm developed is called a supernumerary robotic arm, in that it does not supplement any existing human limb but adds an extra one to the body.

The arm has three degrees of freedom and is controlled by a hydraulic system connected to the user through a tether and controlled by another human being.

According to IEEE Spectrum, the arm weighs little over four kilograms, approximately the same as a human arm, although most of that weight comes from its external power source which has to be attached to the arm at all times.

In terms of power, the arm can lift a five kilogram weight, meaning that it could be used for a number of tasks including painting walls, washing windows, handing tools to a human worker, or even playing badminton.

Since the arm uses magnetorheological clutches, which can react very quickly, the grip can be applied and removed rapidly so as to not harm any human beings.

While the arm does require another human to make it function, researchers have suggested that adding sensors or artificial intelligence would be able to have it complete tasks independently.

"If we want that SRL [supernumerary robotic limb] to be multifunctional, it requires some AI or intelligent controller to detect what the human wants to do, and how the SRL could be complementary to the user (and act as a coworker). So there are a lot of things to explore in that vast field of 'human intent.'" Catherine Véronneau, lead author of the paper about the arm, said.

This is not the only robotic development that has recently been achieved; researchers at Harvard developed a tiny microbot the size of a penny coin that could be used in surgeries or construction, based on an existing-larger model of the same robot.

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