Video: Here is a spooky robotic arm that can fool people into believing it’s a real human hand
What would be your first reaction when you see a grey-colored robotic hand mimicking your real hand’s (assuming that the reader is a human) movements and functions? You’d be shocked and spooked, right? Well, a robotics company in Poland has managed to create such an unbelievable artificial hand for real, New Atlas reported.
The company Clone Robotics claims to have created the world’s first biomimetic (artificial objects that behave similarly to natural objects) hand (model number V15) that can grasp objects ranging from a tennis ball to an active drill machine, and that too with a human-hand-like grip. The fingers, thumb, and internal muscles of the robotic hand look and function almost like a real human hand.
The science behind the uncanny humanoid hand
The robotic hand is developed using pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs), a technology that was first proposed in the 1950s for creating medical applications related to bone injury. Later, it also made its way into various other applications, including soft robotics. PAMs are light and flexible structures made of mesh tubes that can contract or expand depending on the airflow inside them.
The team at Clone Robotics also created the internal structure of their humanoid hand from PAMs made of recyclable and budget-friendly material (they didn’t disclose the material name). The entire structure is supported by several mesh tubes, and balloons filled with acetaldehyde. The chemical allows the atmospheric pressure inside the balloons to increase over six times just by passing an electric current through them.
This way the creators of the robotic hand are able to generate the required pneumatic pressure (to move its different parts) without employing any heavy external air pumps. As the pressure inside the balloons changes, the mesh tubes contract or expand accordingly. Moreover, the robotic hand has a total of 36 artificial muscles.
Similar to the muscles of a normal human hand, the artificial muscles also have 27 degrees of freedom, meaning that the robot's thumbs and fingers can move, rotate, and hold just like the way their human counterparts do. The Clone Robotics team suggests that In the future, their artificial hand could be used as an appliance to perform various tasks in homes, factories, and laboratories, plus, it also has the potential to make humanoids more advance than ever.
The robotic hand is an engineering marvel
The engineers at Clone Robotics didn’t achieve success in creating the V15 robotic hand on their first attempt. Getting the hand work without air pumps was just one challenge. Initially, the hand weighed 18.3 lbs (8.3 kg), contained only 20 muscles, and could work for up to 5000 cycles. The engineers kept on improving their model until they were able to reduce its weight to 9.47 lbs (4.3 kgs).
Moreover, the current prototype of the robotic hand has 16 more muscles and is durable enough to stay functional for more cycles. It is equipped with 36 electro-hydraulic valves and has the same number of pressure sensors. "In the past 8 months, we iteratively updated the design and assembly process of our hydraulic muscles, improving the durability from 5,000 cycles to more than 650,000 cycles,” the Clone Robotics team told designboom.
The company is planning to make V15 commercially available in 2023 and is already taking pre-orders on its website. It is also working on a robotic torso that would have a human-like artificial spine, arms, chest, and shoulders. The torso would be equipped with 124 artificial pneumatic muscles and along with the current prototype, it’s probably going to change the way humanoids are conceived.
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