Robot hand could handle roadside bombs

Aug. 22, 2012 at 4:08 PM
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ALBUQUERQUE, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A lifelike, less-costly robotic hand has been developed that can be used to disarm improvised explosive devices, researchers at a U.S. research laboratory said.

The hand, created at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, addresses challenges that have prevented widespread adoption of other robotic hands, including cost, durability and dexterity, its developers said.

"Current iterations of robotic hands can cost more than $250,000," Sandia senior manager Philip Heermann said.

"We need the flexibility and capability of a robotic hand to save human lives, and it needs to be priced for wide distribution to troops."

The Sandia Hand is modular, so different kinds of fingers can be quickly plugged into the hand frame, offering the ability to include other tools such as flashlights, screwdrivers or cameras, the developers said in a release Wednesday.

The fingers are designed to fall off if the hand accidentally collides with a wall or another object.

"Rather than breaking the hand, this configuration allows the user to recover very quickly, and fingers can easily be put back in their sockets," principal investigator Curt Salisbury said.

"In addition, if a finger pops off, the robot can actually pick it up with the remaining fingers, move into position and re-socket the finger by itself."

The robot hand is controlled by an operator wearing a glove.

The Sandia Hand project is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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