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Exoskeleton hand gives you robo-powered fingers

Festo's prototype robo-hand can operate machine manipulators from afar, and could help stroke victims regain use of their hands.

Festo chairman Eberhard Veit shows off the ExoHand.

In the future when we'll all be wearing robotic exoskeletons, we'll laugh when we think back on the days when we were mere meatsacks. German automation firm Festo is helping us upgrade with the ExoHand, a glove controller that can give people a machine handshake.

Known for its elegantly engineered SmartBird robot seagull, Festo says its ExoHand can not only teleoperate a robot hand in a master-slave control relationship, it can reduce strain from repetitive tasks when using your own old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood hands.

It's a "force amplification device" consisting of eight double-action pneumatic actuators. Potentiometers and pressure sensors track the force and position of the fingers.

With its force-feedback system, the glove could help manipulate objects from afar when dealing with hazardous environments such as nuclear power plants. Factory workers who perform repetitive manual tasks might also benefit from the ExoHand as it would increase their strength.

The glove has all the degrees of freedom (axes of movement) of the hand itself. It was made with Feto components that are already being made in large quantities, so mass production is possible.

In the promo vid below, a man uses the ExoHand to feel and manipulate objects in real time with a separate robotic hand. The robot fingers can grasp things with precision control.

Other potential uses include orthotic applications, for instance helping stroke victims rehabilitate motor control in their hands.

Indeed, Festo describes the ExoHand thus: "The objectives are to enhance the strength and endurance of the human hand, to extend humans' scope of action and to secure them an independent lifestyle even at an advanced age."

Yep, robotized seniors. Imagine the lawn bowling games.

(Via IEEE Spectrum)