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Making Robots Mimic the Human Hand


A robot hand.

A government program has two different teams working on the development of low-cost artificial hands.

Credit: Shadow Robot Company

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is engaged in an initiative to build low-cost artificial hands through the work of two teams from iRobot and Sandia National Laboratories.

Technologies the teams are using to reduce costs include widely available products such as cellphone cameras and sensors.

One hand under development is three-fingered while another is four-fingered, and among the delicate operations they can perform is picking up and manipulating tweezers to pick up a straw. A two-armed robot equipped with the hands also can remove a tire from a car.

Challenges DARPA hopes to meet in the project's next phase include designing a robot arm and hand that can search for a improvised explosive device tactilely.

Meanwhile, the agency has picked Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Southern California to continue development of high-level software for next-generation robot arms. Whereas in the past DARPA asked software developers to create robotic programs for generic individual motions, now it has a mandate for robots capable of executing a specific task.

From The New York Times
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