The Robo-Glove's real ingenuity lies in its use of electronics to learn the wearer's intentions. Force-sensitive resistors in the fingertips work with a microprocessor, software, and a set of motor controllers to endow the system with closed-loop control. "When you come in contact with something and squeeze, the reaction is immediate," Linn said. "The microprocessor reads the sensors, understands the intent of the user, and tells the motors to actuate. The motors cinch everything up and give you the extra force you need."
The glove is an offshoot of Robonaut 2 (R2), a collaborative GM-NASA project that provided a dexterous working robot for the International Space Station. Unlike R2, GM sees the Robo-Glove as a product that can be commercialized.
Linn said the device could have applications in the robotics market, particularly in the growing area that includes humanoid robots and exoskeletons. Clothing companies could also incorporate the technology into work gloves. GM is still studying the prototype to learn which applications would make the most sense.
Early research by the automaker has shown that auto workers wearing a Robo-Glove can grip a tool longer and more comfortably. The company says the glove could reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
"We don't know yet what the best applications will be," Linn said. "Our approach is to try it out on a bunch of tasks and let the operators, who are the real experts, tell us whether it helps or not."
Yes, I guess it's easy to point to successes such as the Post-It Note and declare that 10% time (or 20% time in Google's Case) is a great idea. But I wonder how often those ideas never see the light of day.
Yes, the Post-It Notes is a great 3M story, Chuck. I didn't realize they had a formal policy of 10 percent exploratory work. Google has a similar policy, allowing employees to take 20 percent of their workweek for pet projects.
I think we may have discussed this previously, Rob, but I believe 3M actually had a 10% rule that allowed employees to use 10% of their time to explore their own new ideas. As I recall, the guy who invented Post-It Notes was doing it on his 10% time, so he could create little temporary sticky notes for his Sunday prayer book. That would seem to be time-well-spent for 3M.
This is quite an interesting product and it certainly would offer value in many areas aside from automotive manufacturing. The very interesting application that I can see is for it to be used to program a robot hand, used either with or without the rest of the industrial robot. It could be far more flexible than a standard gripper.
Ann, I see your point about shoes, but there might actually be a medical application that crosses over. We have a chiropractor friend who is constantly brainstorming ideas for his patients.He wants to invent shoes for the elderly that will self-adjust as they walk. While grasping is not something I would see as applicable, using tiny servo motors and the associated hardware in a similar fashion to apply force may be a way to manipulate the positioning of the foot in the shoe in a way that adjusts it for proper posture.
I'm with you and bdcst on trying to get those jar lids open!
Yes, Nancy, perhaps this is the beginning of a new era of innovation. The airline industry is developing composite materials that will be used elsewhere. Ford is developing new eco-materials for the interior of their vehicles.
Nancy, I suspect that worker injuries may have played a role in the decision to do this. (GM did not discuss this with me, however.) I can only imagine how many employess GM must have with those kinds of problems.
Last night’s 2015 State of the Union Address was heavy on jobs and the economy and notably light on manufacturing. President Obama did, however, make brief references to several issues central to engineers.
Carnegie Mellon University's modular snake robot can be reconfigured to meet users' needs. Not only will this modular system enable completely new robot designs, say its inventors, it will also help speed up the pace of development and enable more flexible traditional industrial robots.
US manufacturing output rose 0.3% in December, but warm weather that blanketed the entire country reduced heating demand, significantly dragging down utilities output and the nation’s overall industrial production for the month. The 0.1% decline in December was the first contraction in the nation’s total industrial output since August, the Federal Reserve announced Friday.
A lightweight metals research consortium formed last year as part of President Barack Obama’s national manufacturing innovation initiatives will open its research facility in Detroit today, marking the official start of a federally supported effort to commercialize new, advanced manufacturing technology in the automotive, military, and aerospace industries.
US orders of metalworking capital machinery cooled significantly in the two months following the big International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, according to the latest available data tracked by that show’s organizer. But the nation’s manufacturing sector is predicted to grow robustly again this year and buoy industrial machinery investment, which will bode well for the machine design industry.
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