GM Adapts NASA's Robotic Glove to Help Factory Workers

Trevor English

GM:NASA roboglove[Image Source: GM]

Modeled after a robotic glove designed by NASA for the ISS, GM is developing a roboglove to help factory workers in their manufacturing plants. The goal of implementing this glove is to decrease muscle fatigue in workers whose jobs are repetitive or labor intensive. According to General Motors, the company is working closely with BioServo, a Swedish medical technologies firm, to develop a functioning roboglove.

robo glove[Image Source: GM]

Sensors mounted throughout the device can determine when the user is lifting an object and actuate artificial tendons in the forearm. Mounted on the waste of the user will be the device's battery pack which can power the assistive robotic glove for many hours. According to The Verge, BioServo is implementing a soft extra muscle (SEM) technology to seamlessly integrate the assisted robogrip to the users input.

“The successor to RoboGlove can reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions” ~ Kurt Wiese, vice president of GM Global Manufacturing Engineering.

Originally, the roboglove design from NASA was used to control the Robonaut 2 space helper aboard the ISS, according to Popular Mechanics. While there has been talk of implementing exoskeletons in the manual labor force, due to cost problems, it hasn't been seen on a large scale. This smaller scale robotic glove could help move assistive exoskeletons into the global workforce, shaping the industry.

GM nasa space glove[Image Source: GM]

BioServe also sees other avenues for this commercially available robotic glove in the medical rehabilitation industry. Assistive technology like the roboglove will lead to fewer repetitive motion injuries in the manufacturing workforce, meaning decreased costs for employers, according to Engadget. The increased grip strength will also allow fewer workers to handle heavier objects. This is one of the first times where this technology has become cheap enough to be commercially viable in the industry.