This robot suit gives you an extra pair of arms to play with

If you’ve ever stared enviously at an ant, jealous of its six-legged efficiency, then you’ll be happy to hear that engineers at Japan’s Inami Hiyama Laboratory have developed a multi-limbed robotic suit – able to give users control over two extra arms.

The MetaLimbs system is built up of two main parts. The first is a set of robotic limbs that rest on the wearer like a tech-heavy backpack. The second is a tracking system attached to the wearer’s legs.

As the below video explains, optical markers are attached to toes and knees. When the wearer moves their leg, so does the accompanying robotic arm. When they squeeze their toes, the robot hand tightens its grip. There’s also haptic feedback, so when wearer holds something they feel pressure on their foot.

“You can reach and grasp an object, touch yourself, and move four arms at the same time,” explains one of the researchers in the video.

Although the demo highlights the use of MetaLimb’s additional limbs alongside a functional upper body, it seems the most immediately useful case for the technology would be for those who have lost the use of their arms. Being able to shift control of the legs to an exterior set of limbs stands to be a useful way to rejig body functionality for those with disabilities. It would be interesting, for example, to see if a similar system could move in the opposite direction – with artificial legs controlled by arm movements.  

Beyond this, the project raises interesting questions about the concept of the human body, and how it can be reorganised with the help of advanced prosthetics. “It is a novel experience,” the video claims. “Your body will adapt to a new type of human shape and the body schema will metamorphose [to encompass] multiple arms”. Is it really possible for the human body to metamorphose with the help of technology?

Source: Prosthetic Knowledge

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