Arms and the man: Getting closer all the time
By Tom Green
October 06, 2012
Behold the human arm. Magnificent. Hold it up and take a good long look at it. What a thing of beauty, power, dexterity and precision. Five-million years in the making.
Can any rational roboticist actually think that he or she can fashion an arm of metal and plastic, wires, gears, end effectors, and electronic nerves that could possibly vie with Mother Nature’s handiwork?
Of course, none do…yet. The arm that builds and fells empires, penned the Bible, painted the Sistine Chapel, plus does its level best to get its host through the mundane chores of the day, will not suffer duplication easily.
The challenge, however, has been taken up by humans, who, with the introduction of the co-worker robot this year, have, like it or not, been thrown into the fray of continually upgrading and improving upon the robotic arms already at work and those quickly entering into the marketplace. In short, the handier a robot is, the more attention its future development will get.
If robots are to be the side-by-side work mates of their creators, then they better have arms, good ones. Robotic arms may not be called upon to paint the Sistine Chapel, but they are sure as hell going to called upon to do a lot more than weld cars together.
A robot’s central defining characteristic
It may well be that a robot’s arm or arms will be a robot’s defining characteristic for a very long while. A robot without arms will therefore not be a robot; rather, ‘armlessness’ will be an evolutionary dead-end, much like Homo robustus: a hominid, yes, but not much of one.
To the victor who conquers the robotic arm and hand conundrum will go spoils equal to or maybe greater than those for the house that Jobs and Woz built. There has been lots of stellar development work done on robotic arms. Let’s take a look:
Arms are pretty good, but need to get better
Random items picked out of a jumble in a picking bin
Incredibly light weight but highly mobile and fast.
Dressing with WAM:
WAM arms: the world’s first robot system that learns to clothe people.
Faux human muscle:
Awesome actuators that mimic human arm muscle
Got arm, need a hand and fingers:
Advanced fingertips with remarkable sensory technology
Japan’s secret co-worker:
Hiro’s arms are people-ready, dexterous, slim, fast and accurate.
Robai Cyton Gamma:
Muscular looking but lots of movement and mobility
The Meka arm:
Wonderful technology getting a price-conscious makeover by Redwood Robotics
Quite possibly the most cost-effective, 6-axis robot on the market today