AugLimb's Creator Thinks It Will Become as Popular as Smartwatches

Though we have our doubts, Haoran Xie believes that his team's robotic limb will become as popular as smartwatches are today.

Cameron Coward
2 months agoRobotics
(📷: Ding et al.)

Futurism is a tricky field. Some predictions are easy to make based on contemporary trends and emerging technologies. Moore's Law, for example, held true for decades and gave researchers the ability to predict future transistor counts and computing power. But other times, revolutionary technology comes out of left field. Not many people predicted how cell phones would change the world. Sci-fi has long foretold a future in which robotic human augmentation is commonplace. Though we have our doubts, Haoran Xie believes that his team's AugLimb will become as popular as smartwatches are today.

AugLimb is a quintessential robotic augmentation. It isn't a robotic prosthesis intended to replace a missing limb, but a supplementary limb. It is a third arm. This idea isn't new — we've all experienced scenarios in which we wished for an extra arm, after all. There are a great many number of tasks that would be easier to tackle if a person wasn't limited to their two natural arms. But most robotic augmentations like this tend to be big, heavy, and unwieldy. AugLimb is different. It is compact, lightweight, and quite dexterous.

AugLimb's dexterity is thanks to its seven degrees of freedom (DoF), plus an extendable gripper. It has a shoulder pivot joint, shoulder rotation joint, elbow pivot joint, wrist pivot joint, wrist rotation joint, a scissor-style extension, a gripper rotation joint, and a gripper. An Arduino Mega board controls AugLimb's motors. It is extendable by up to 250 mm (about 10 inches), and has a maximum reach further than the user's own arm. Right now, a separate human operate must control the robotic arm. But, in the future, the team plans to explore more intuitive and natural means of control.

Xie said, "We believe that AugLimb will be as popular as smart watches in the near future, as anyone from an elder to a child can comfortably wear it for the whole day." We aren’t sold on that claim. Nothing that Xie's team showcased convinces us that AugLimb is practical for the average person. But this is still a cool project and one step closer to cyborg-like augmentations.

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