General Motors and NASA announced Tuesday that they are joining research and development forces to develop a robotic glove for use by auto workers and astronauts. The glove’s robotics assist a human wearer in accomplishing repetitive tasks without fatigue over a protracted period of time.
The Human Grasp Assist Device
It’s called the Human Grasp Assist Device or the Robo-Glove or the K-Glove. The device is self-contained and weighs about two pounds, not counting the battery pack that clips on to the wearer’s belt.
It appears to be a fairly ordinary ski glove if one ignores the attached wrist-strapped microprocessor, motor, sensors and other components, as well as the cable leading to the battery pack.
Spin off of humanoid robot
The K-Glove technology was developed originally for the humanoid robot, Robonaut 2 (R2), that is currently being put to work on board the orbiting International Space Station. R2’s incredibly dextrous and strong hands use actuators and electronics to mimic the the nerves, muscles and tendons of human hands. The idea of incorporating the technology into a human-worn glove came as an afterthought.
GM and NASA long-time collaborators
Besides R2 and the K-Glove, NASA and GM have previously collaborated developing the navigation system used in Apollo moon flights and the Lunar Rover Vehicle.
Reduces fatigue from repetitive tasks
The glove exerts 10 pounds of force, which may not sound like all that much. However, the glove’s developers say that is sufficient to allow factory workers to perform tasks for much longer without suffering from fatigue. The fingertips of the glove are equipped with sensors that can detect when the fingers touch a tool. When the worker takes hold of the tool, the synthetic tendons in the glove retract, making a solid grip until the sensor is released.
Dana Komin, an engineer with GM, said in a statement:
“When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an auto worker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions. In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury.”
Third version in development
According to GM’s press release, the first working prototype of the K-Glove was developed a year ago. Currently, the developers are making a third version that reduces size and weight. The statement did not say when the gloves may see use on the assembly line or in outer space.
When can I get a set?
For me the most important question is — and I’m sure many readers will sympathize — when will it be available for me to buy at the local hardware store? This thing is really neat!