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Ford's RUTH robot arm extends hand to North America

Tactile robot arm that tests car interiors has arrived on North American soil, where she's poking and prodding 2013 Fusions to collect data that helps engineers make a more comfortable car.

RUTH tests the interior of the 2013 Ford Fusion. (Click to enlarge.)

If you're driving around in a 2013 Ford Fusion and think to yourself, "My, but this seat is comfortable," there's a good chance you have RUTH the robot to thank.

Ford's Robotized Unit for Tactility and Haptics -- a modified consumer packaging arm that tests interiors for quality and comfort -- has crossed the Atlantic from Europe to bring her touchy-feely testing skills to North America.

The robot simulates human motor skills to measure parameters like roughness, hardness, and temperature on points such as the steering wheel, knobs, and armrests. RUTH has already been used for several years at the automaker's European Research Center in Aachen, Germany, to poke and prod European versions of the Focus and Fiesta.

RUTH 2.0, located at Ford's Product Development Center in Dearborn, Mich., measures seat comfort too. She has extended her six-jointed arm all over the seats of the 2013 Fusion, the first North American car headed to production that she's had a major hand (or arm, we should say) in testing.

Why RUTH? The idea is that she can provide data faster and more objectively than the standard biased flesh-and-blood auto tester. "Before RUTH, many engineers had access only to handheld measuring tools, and no means to test the interiors in a manner that resembled in-vehicle scenarios," Luke Robinson, Ford metrologist and RUTH technician, said in a statement.

Work by the machine is now being seen in production models around the world, but Ford says it's the first North American automaker to use a robot like RUTH.

It's actually pretty amusing to watch RUTH poke around a Ford Fusion in the video below. She looks quite focused and intent on her work -- and never seems to need a break.