A robotic glove technology, created to be used on the International Space Station by NASA in collaboration with General Motors, is now finding application on earth in manufacturing, health care, and other industrial sectors. This was made possible through a licensing agreement between Bioservo Technologies AB, a Swedish medical technology company and General Motors.
Bioservo, partnering with General Motors, will incorporate technology from its Soft Extra Muscle (SEM) GloveTM technology with the RoboGlove, a force-multiplying and battery-controlled wearable created by NASA and General Motors over a nine-year joint venture that witnessed the introduction of the humanoid robot named Robonaut 2 (R2) into space in 2011.
The RoboGlove employs tendons, actuators and advanced sensors that are similar to the muscles, nerves and tendons in a human hand. One of the design criteria for the R2 configuration was to handle tools intended for people, and developers accomplished phenomenal hand dexterity. The technology was then incorporated into the RoboGlove.
As a first step, Bioservo will formulate a new grasp assist equipment for industrial application that could enhance user efficiency while minimizing fatigue in hand muscles. The study indicates that fatigue can take place in a short period of time due to constant gripping of a tool.
Combining the best of three worlds – space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo – in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial scale use of the technology.
Tomas Ward, CEO of Bioservo Technologies
Ward explained that the technology combination is an important step toward launching soft exoskeleton technology worldwide.
General Motors plans on being the first U.S. manufacturing customer for the advanced robotic glove and will test it in few of its plants. Bioservo will manufacture and offer the new glove for a number of applications.
The successor to RoboGlove can reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions.
Kurt Wiese, Vice President of General Motors Global Manufacturing Engineering
General Motors tried out the RoboGlove in a preproduction plant prior to searching for an associate to help refine it to match various size hands and attend to other issues.