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."
I've read about a couple of projects in this area lately, but this seems to go a step further with the intelligent sensors that make some sort of interpretation as to how the user wants to operate the hand. That seems pretty advanced in my book. Is this something GM is developing for use internally or would there be commercial applications/availability for it outside of automotive manufacturing? Seems odd that GM would spend time developing/commercializing something a competitor might use.
Beth, i had a similar conversation with Chuck about this the other day. Chuck, can you elaborate on whether GM has plans to mass produce this product, or will they use it internally? In any case, it will be interesting to see what type of companys will employ the Robo-Glove.
Itis good to see GM put engineering labor and cost into something that helps their employees health and well being. If this technology is deployed in their factory and their repetetive motion injury rate goes down, the result to their bottom line will be substantial.
Chuck, Very cool development. The packaging of the system (motors and ballscrews) must have been a significant challenge with this. Great to see the linkage to their work with NASA on the humanoid robot project.
As Rob has indicated here, GM will likely commercialize this through licensing. Make no mistake, though, even though they are not planning to mass produce it themselves, they are very serious about commercialization. And they are open to ideas for innovative ways to use the technology.
Ann: GM is very open to ideas for commercialization. While I was talking with them, they mentioned possible uses in defense applications and in clothing lines. They also mentioned a prominent shoe manufacturer in our discussions, but didn't indicate how that company might use it.
This is a very exciting development – I know so many people who are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and this looks like a great preventative measure and even a way for those who have a repetitive stress injury to be able to continue to work. I will be looking forward to what the operators have to say about it! I wonder how cost effective it will be to implement because I think the possibilities are so huge...very cool!
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