By Andy Choi
NASA, in association with General Motors, is fabricating a robotic glove that will ensure safety and reduce potential risks in the tasks performed by astronauts and autoworkers.
Following the Robonaut 2 (R2) project, wherein the first humanoid robot was launched into space in 2011, NASA and GM developed the Human Grasp Assist device, known as the K-glove or Robo-Glove. The initial demonstration with Robo-Glove ensures that the user can hold a grip for a longer time with increased comfort. The robotic glove allows the astronaut to carry out efficient operation by applying only 5-10 pounds of force.
Similar to the design in R2, the upper portion of the glove includes actuators for providing the user with grasping support. In addition, the fingertips of the glove are in-built with pressure sensors in order to detect the grasping mechanism of the user. Soon after the sensor identifies that the user is gripping a tool, the synthetic tendons instantly undergoes retraction that bring the fingers into a gripping position, retaining the position till the sensor is released.
NASA and GM together presented 46 patent applications for R2, in which four applications include that of the Robo-Glove.
In March 2011, the first prototype of the glove was achieved, followed by the completion of G2 after three months. Oceaneering Space Systems provided fabric for the glove. The weight of the present prototypes is about 2lb. It consists of actuators, control electronics, and a small display for diagnostics and programming. The system is powered by a lithium-ion power-tool battery (off-the-shelf), incorporated with a belt-clip. A G3 prototype with repackaged components will soon be available.