Use for a third arm can go in a lot of different directions. It could help you with your daily tasks, make things easier for you in the workplace and even help you handle dangerous objects and materials. It would prove to have greater use for those who are impaired and struggle with daily tasks. A team of researchers at Arizona State University took on this problem head-on and have invented a soft-poly limb system that essentially gives you a handy robotic arm.
The Soft Poly Limb (SPL) is a fluid driven wearable device that gives the user control of an additional limb with the ability to handle complex three-dimensional motion. It looks like a backpack with a soft robotic arm attached. It has the ability to manipulate objects using various end-effectors, like suction adhesion or a soft grasper. It can also use its entire body to wrap around an object to lift 2.35 times its own weight. It’s able to pick up a variety of things, such as a cup, a banana, a ball, and even a backpack. In a video demonstration, the team even shows the limb helping out by scanning a keycard and opening a door.
The poly limbs are made out of elastomeric actuators, 3-chambered actuators to be specific. Each actuator is composed of 3 ring reinforced actuators to help increase its flexibility and strength. To increase the limb’s free motion in space, the team used the finite element method (FEM) for movement optimization.
The SPL is broken down into three segments, which can be controlled individually or collectively. For a more fluid motion, you control the device collectively while controlling it individually is useful for precise positioning. You can also use different sensors to control the SPL, such as an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor that detects hand movement or a surface electromyography (sEMG) setup.
The team is still working on improving the device, so it’s not quite ready for use. But once it’s introduced to the masses, it could greatly change the lives of those who need it, especially for the impaired. Having a system that provides assistance with daily tasks no matter how small is a great way to help make the lives of the impaired easier.