A while back, GM and NASA got together to make a “robotic” glove in order to help astronauts have a firmer grip on things over outer space. GM is re-modifying that design to help earthlings now. The company recently announced its plans to develop a gravity friendly model of Nintendo Powerglove. For this purpose, the company will be teaming up with Bioservo Technologies, a Sweden based exo-skeleton developer. The project will witness fusion of Bioserve’s SEM (Soft Extra Muscle) glove with the real RoboGlove for industrial, medical, and manufacturing related applications.
The initial space based model of RoboGlove worked as a battery operated force-multiplying wearable device. The glove was in-fitted with actuators, artificial tendons, and sensors that could be thought as a designer replication of muscles, tendons, and nerves found in human hand. It was derived from the technique used in formation of Robonaut 2’s hands that went to space in year 2011.
Everyone who has ever worked in manufacturing industry as a repair technician must have had experience of fatigue in hands especially fingers. This is felt when a tool is held tightly for a few minutes. Bioservo plans to come up with a new grasp assist device as RoboGlove that will increase efficiency of human operator and bringing down the level of fatigue in their hands. Kurt Wiese, the GM Global Manufacturing Engineering’s VP likes to add that, “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.”
The CEO of Bioservo, Tomas Ward also explains, “Combining the best of three worlds – space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo – in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial scale use of the technology.” Both man believe in the huge potential of this device and agree that it is a significant step towards introduction of soft exoskeleton on a global basis. GM aims to be the first manufacturer in US to employ RoboGlove in industrial operations. The American giant plans to test this technology in some of its facilities, but it is yet to share which ones will be included in this experimentation. The company has already used this product in one of it’s preproduction plants and is looking for a partner who can help in giving a better design to this device. It will be designed as per different hand sizes and take care of a few other issues as well.
Exoskeleton, at this stage, might not be giving super strength to its users but is a big step in this direction.