More limbs? We could soon have a third robotic arm

How practical would it be to have one more arm?
Loukia Papadopoulos
Third Arm.
Third Arm.

NCCR Robotics 

Silvestro Micera, a researcher from EPFL, Switzerland, has engineered a robotic third arm to assist people with daily living.

For years, Micera has focused on helping people with sensory and motor deficits to regain independence and quality of life by developing wearable and implantable technologies. He has now, however, turned his attention to exploring what it means to augment the human body.

Presenting a functioning "third arm"

This year at AAAS in Washington, Micera will be presenting his "third arm" research that aims to equip healthy individuals with a robotic arm, essentially giving them a third arm to control. The wearable robotic arm will assist individuals with daily tasks through the use of non-invasive techniques. 

"Research on three arm control could help us understand how learning is achieved in activities of daily living, but these devices could also be used in logistics to facilitate complicated tasks," Micera explained in a press release.

Micera is famous for being the first researcher to provide sensory feedback –  in real-time – to an amputee, with a bionic hand, during clinical trials that took place in 2013 with results that were published in 2014. 

This was achieved through the instruction of sensory feedback via transversal electrodes that were surgically implanted into major nerves in the amputee's arm. Micera and his team have now been working on that technology, further developing it to provide improved touch resolution of textures with a bionic fingertip, an improved embodiment of the prosthetic limb.

Ultimately they are working towards a permanent, wearable prosthetic hand.

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The work opens up many futuristic possibilities, especially in restoring motor capabilities to the disabled. Micera's team claims that the advancements made will be soon used to offer other motor and sensory functions in cases such as spinal cord injury or stroke.

In October of 2022, the company Clone Robotics claimed to have created the world's first biomimetic hand that can grasp objects ranging from a tennis ball to an active drill machine. The fingers, thumb, and internal muscles of the robotic hand looked and functioned almost like a real human hand.

In January of 2023, Supernova, a South Korean startup, designed HUENIT, a robotic arm to help people with various household chores and creative tasks. HUENIT is an easy-to-use AI-based multi-functional robotic arm that combines advanced AI technologies with a modular arm to work on complex tasks with high precision. The robot can do everything from making coffee to 3D printing a prototype.

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