We're not going to lie, an extra pair of hands would be pretty useful sometimes (dare we say, handy). Imagine you're typing out an email while a third hand is bringing a coffee cup up to your lips, or reading a book while chowing down on some potato chips and petting the dog. A team of Japanese engineers has come up with a solution dubbed MetaLimbs – a set of robotic arms that are controlled with your feet and knees.
Based at the University of Tokyo, researchers at the Inami Laboratory saw our limited number of limbs as a problem they could engineer a solution to. MetaLimbs, or Multiple Arts Interaction Metamorphism, is a set of robotic arms that reach around under your human arms and are controlled by sensors attached to your legs.
Positional tracking balls on the knees and feet direct the arm movement, while a sock device allows the movement of your toes to control the grasp of the robot hands. There are even haptic sensors on the robot hands that generate force feedback on your feet. The arms are intended to be worn while sitting, but can be used while standing depending on the task at hand.
Judging by the video there is a bit of a steep learning curve in figuring out how to control the robotic arms with your legs. We certainly wouldn't be advocating using the robo-hands for any delicate activities, like scratching your eye or defusing a bomb, as a small leg twitch seems to translate into a large jerk of the arm, but there would certainly be plenty of scenarios when they'd be useful.
The team are presenting the device in Los Angeles at the upcoming SIGGRAPH2017 Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques that runs from July 30 to August 3.
Take a look at the MetaLimbs in action in the video below.
Source: Inami Laboratory - YouTube
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