NASA, GM jointly developing robotic gloves

  • 26-Mar-2012 03:58 EDT

The Human Grasp Assist is designed to allow the wearer to hold a grip longer and more comfortably. The glove, still in prototype stage, is expected to be used in space and applied to manufacturing plant use on Earth.

NASA and General Motors are jointly developing a robotic glove that astronauts and autoworkers can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. The Human Grasp Assist device, known as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from NASA and GM's Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which launched the first humanoid robot into space in 2011. Research shows that continuously gripping a tool can cause fatigue in hand muscles within a few minutes, but initial testing of the Robo-Glove indicates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably. Inspired by the finger actuation system of R2, actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to detect when the user is grasping a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released. The current prototypes weigh about 2 lb (1 kg) and include the control electronics, actuators, and a small display for programming and diagnostics.

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