Video: GM's Robo-Glove Mimics Human Hand

Charles Murray

March 27, 2012

1 Min Read
Video: GM's Robo-Glove Mimics Human Hand

Using a device called Robo-Glove, auto workers may soon have an easier way to hold and squeeze objects on the assembly line.

Designed by engineers at General Motors, the glove uses a combination of actuators, sensors, and synthetic tendons to mimic the operation of a human hand while adding a measure of functional force. In addition to being employed in manufacturing, GM engineers say they foresee its use in a multitude of applications, from household repairs to complex humanoid robot operations.


"We're looking at any type of task that requires grasping of some sort," Marty Linn, principal engineer of robotics at GM, told us. "Imagine a firefighter holding on to an icy hose during winter. This glove is for repetitive grasping or endurance-holding of an object."

To perform those kinds of functions, the Robo-Glove (also known as the Human Grasp Assist Device or K-Glove) incorporates four tiny servo motors, four gearheads, four ball screws, and a lithium-ion battery in a package worn on the forearm. When a servo motor rotates, the associated ball screw imparts a translating force, which tugs on a "tendon" to move one of the fingers. GM engineers employed a flexible, high-strength fiber called Vectran to mimic the characteristics of a human tendon and give the fingers lifelike qualities.

"The key for us has been to keep the package size small," Linn said. "We wanted to make sure that there's room for all the working elements down near the hand."

About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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