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Science: 

Robot glove gives you two extra fingers

How many times have you needed an extra pair of hands around the house? Well, how about an extra couple of fingers?

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have listened to our prayers and are working on a wearable robotic device that could potentially add two strong fingers to your hand.

fingers-body

The device is tied onto the wrist and two additional, actuator-powered fingers are placed on either side of your hand. The whole mechanism acts like a glove with sensors on the thumb, index and middle fingers that manages an algorithm that allows the robotic fingers to move in accordance with your real fingers.

This exciting prospect was presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in Berkeley, California by the MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor Harry Asada and graduate student Faye Wu. The inventors aim for their discovery to eventually help those who face problems like opening a bottle of ketchup, a jam jar or a sealed Tupperware.

The researchers came up with the idea after looking into typical every day hand gestures. Whilst most hand movements are quite complex, it all happens “in synergy. Groups of muscles are activated together by a single control signal,” said Wu in the MIT video introducing the project. The pair broke down the complex movements into smaller parts and by wearing the glove, they tried to ‘teach’ it movements step by step – a process reminding us of Siri learning our asking patterns.

“After you’ve been using it for a while, [Siri] gets used to your pronunciation so it can tune to your particular accent,” Wu says. “Long-term, our technology can be similar, where the robot can adjust and adapt to you.”

Wu also believes they’ll gradually make smaller and foldable models of the specific device.

Can you imagine how much faster you could type with seven fingers? How about playing the piano or dribbling a basketball? All of this and more just became possible.

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