NASA, GM developing robotic glove

March 14, 2012 at 10:35 AM
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HOUSTON, March 14 (UPI) -- A robotic glove for more enhanced operation of hand tools by U.S. astronauts as well as autoworkers is being developed by NASA and General Motors.

The device, called K-glove or Robo-Glove, feature finger actuators for grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors in the fingertips detect when the user is grasping a tool, resulting in synthetic tendons automatically pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them in that position until the sensor is released.

"Initial testing of the Robo-Glove indicates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably," the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

"For example, an astronaut working in a pressurized suit outside the space station or an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15 to 20 pounds of force to hold a tool during an operation but with the robotic glove they might need to apply only 5 to 10 pounds of force."

The Robo-Glove resulted from NASA and GM's Robonaut 2 project, which launched the first humanoid robot into space. In developing the robot, it was given hands with unprecedented dexterity, which has resulted in the new development effort.

"The prototype glove offers my spacesuit team a promising opportunity to explore new ideas, and challenges our traditional thinking of what extravehicular activity hand dexterity could be," said Trish Petete, division chief, Crew and Thermal Systems Division, NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Dana Komin, GM's manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution, said: "When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an autoworker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions. In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury."

The first two prototype gloves were produced last year. The prototype weighs about 2 pounds and is powered by an off-the-shelf lithium-ion power-tool battery.

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