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MIT demos shoulder-mounted Doc Ock robot arms

We can't all be super-villains, but some MIT researchers are getting closer with a set of robot arms that sit on your shoulders. First the lab, then the world!

MIT robot arms
I will crush you, Spider-Man. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Wouldn't it be nice to have an extra set of arms, literally? When your hands are full, you could still open your door, pet the dog, or pick up a glass. A similar thought must have crossed the mind of a group of MIT researchers, because they have built an extra set of robot arms.

The Supernumerary Robotic Limbs consist of a vest that holds two extending arms on top your shoulders. A demonstration video shows the limbs moving to match the wearer's real arms. The whole package weighs about 10 pounds. Sure, these robot arms aren't as squiggly and far-reaching as Doc Ock's, but you have to start somewhere.

One goal is to have the arms learn the most helpful positions they could be in at any given time. Ultimately, they could have a veritable mind of their own, knowing when to stretch upwards and hold something or when to reach out to open a door. Here's hoping they don't achieve sentience and develop a bad attitude, otherwise MIT will have to develop a Spider-Man to keep them under control.

The arms stem from work done at MIT's Brit and Alex d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology, where researchers have also been working on extra robot arms that sit around waist-height. Admittedly, these look much weirder than the shoulder-mounted versions.

"The overarching goal of this project is to study a new type of co-robots that is perceived to be an extension of the human body, working closely with the wearer," reads the project page. There's nothing in here about taking over the world, but I'm still imagining an army of four-limbed cyborg super-soldiers. My only question is where I sign up to get fitted with a set. Also, I would like my new super-villain name to be "Bicepz."

(Via IEEE Spectrum)