Mia Gardner | 05 Dec 2017
So much is possible with current robots that could only be imagined in the past, but what is even more exciting is what today’s possibilities allows us to imagine for tomorrow. A host of incredible robots was revealed at the 2017 Robobusiness conference, with an immensely wide range of immediate and future capabilities between them.
In addition to the general collection of all things awesome in the world of robotics at the Robobusiness Conference, a lot of robotics enthusiasts stay on top of new developments with dedicated magazines, online chat rooms, blogs and, of course, company websites. One of the developments generating special excitement at the moment is YouBionic’s new prosthetic hand. There are other incredibly agile and dextrous robot hands, of course, but none that are as much a part of the human beings controlling them as this one is.
YouBionic is a startup based in reality, in the business of what it describes “augmented humans”. In the past, engineers at YouBionic were able to create functioning bionic hands for people who did not have them to begin with. Now the company has gone even further, in a move that will remind anyone who has ever read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” of the major character Zaphod Beeblebrox.
The Double Hand prosthesis fits 2 3D-printed bionic hands to your single, organic hand on a kind of gauntlet, meaning each of your hands can control 2 of the prosthetics. You have at least 4 hands at your disposal, in much the same way the Beeblebrox had access to a third hand fitted to his stomach in the book.
Federico Ciccarese, founder of YouBionic, describes the Double Hand as a prototype of what is to come, and envisions a time when human beings and machines are “fused together”. He says that while the merger has already begun with products such as Oculus Rift, there will come the day when this is not enough and devices that act in the 3D world need to be evolved. The current prosthesis is, he believes, the first step on that journey.
From here, we will be able to explore how the brain learns to operate 2 hands instead of 1 within the same neural network that allowed for single control, and to use the new hands for more productivity in a range of industries. Ciccarese envisions a day where we can use these arms to remotely control things on distant planets, or to conduct remote surgeries with even more precision than is possible today. We’ll have to keep watching to see what develops!
The 3D hands are mounted on a gauntlet, which the user wears and which has separate attachments for each finger. With separate movements, you can move each finger separately. Imagine how much more action you could get in at your favourite online casinos after a little practice on one of these!
Flex sensors identify movements and then translate them into actions. New gestures must be learnt since, with 2 hands being controlled, the movements of your own hand are not perfectly mirrored by the prosthetic versions. Still, it should come with a little patience, and what this means for the future cannot even be properly envisioned yet. Improved sensitivity should help with improving the quality of the bionic hands used for amputees, and may even help YouBionic to add feet to the range! The sky is definitely the limit here.