It is now possible to have an extra pair of hands on one’s body. A researcher in Japan created a set of hands that can be worn like a backpack. A person wearing the “backpack” with robotic limbs (Image via Yamen Saraiji)

 

According to Merriam Webster, science fiction is the branch of fiction that presents the effects of a real or imagined scientific fact on people or a community. Today, it is kind of hard to know whether fiction is inspiring reality or vice versa. Many situations that used to possible only in sci-fi (science-fiction) books and movies are taking shape in reality. Maybe it is true that if we can imagine something, we can achieve it like Williams Arthur Ward said once upon a time. But, these days reality is catching up fiction at a fast pace. The latest invention inspired by fiction is the additional mechanic and autonomous arms that one can wear, just like the ones Dr. Octopus had in the movie Spiderman. Apparently, the arms are part of a new category of robots called “telepresence robots.”

 

A telepresence robot is a robot controlled by a computer or tablet or smartphone, which permits that 2 parties far apart interacts easily as if they were present in the same. For example, if a person X living in Tokyo has to attend a meeting in Chicago, he or she can use a telepresence robot placed in the meeting room with the other attendees. The robot will display person X on its screen while person X who connects using a smartphone or computer or tablet, can see the attendees of the meeting and interact with them as if he or she were there. In other words, person X will be “remotely present” at the meeting.

 

Telepresence robots are even called “Skype on wheels.” Some might argue that it is not necessary if the participants of a meeting all plug in using a tool such as “Zoom” or even Skype, but such tools don’t offer the flexibility the robot does. For example, some telepresence robots have a laser pointer allowing the operator to give a full presentation looking back and forth between a screen and the audience. The operator of a telepresence robot can also move around in the meeting room and interact individually with other attendees if necessary.

 

Now using the same concept, Yamen Saraiji, an assistant professor in Media and Design at Keio University, came up with a set of artificial arms that can be worn like a backpack and controlled remotely by another person; as in getting an extra pair of hands from someone who is not in the same room as the wearer. The “backpack” consists of 2 moving robotic hands and a robot’s head that hangs over the shoulder of the wearer. To control the hands remotely, the operator uses Oculus Rift and a touch device. The robot’s head has 2 cameras that also allows the remote operator to see what the “backpack” wearer sees. Even though the idea is just a concept for now, it is very promising.

 

 

With this, it is not just fiction that is becoming a reality, but one of mankind’s dreams is coming to life. Everyone can use a helping hand from time to time, but distance is often an obstacle. However, if this robotic arm is fully developed, it will solve a lot of challenges. People with a handicap can certainly use it, and so can rescuers. Even the military might find it useful. The question now is “what is keeping the Saraiji from developing and selling it?”

 

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