Imagine trying to accomplish a task at a distance with a remote gripper assembly. You’d likely have visual feedback, but without the sense of touch we’re used to, applying the correct amount of pressure to an object would be much more difficult. Such is the case today in many applications that are too dangerous and/or difficult for humans, like bomb disposal or radiological cleanup.
However, this hand/glove/robot assembly aims to add a true sense of touch in telepresence applications. Three organizations collaborated, with a robot from Shadow Robot Company, as well fingertip sensors by SynTouch and haptic feedback gloves from HaptX. Although this isn’t the first time haptic feedback has been applied to telepresence applications, according to the Shadow Robot Company’s managing director Rich Walker, this is the first time it’s been done using a haptic robot hand.
Notably, the hand used here, unlike many other grippers, features a full five fingers to emulate the glove-wearer’s actions. This, along with the embedded sensors, allows for very good dexterity. During a demonstration, an operator in California was able to not just pick up a ball in London, but could also type, take food from a bowl, and even play Jenga. While the demo is a single arm/hand prototype, one could see an amazing array of possibilities being unlocked as this tech develops.