Artificial Limbs And Intelligence

Prosthetic arms can range from inarticulate pirate-style hooks to motorized five-digit hands. Control of any of them is difficult and carries a steep learning curve, rarely does their operation measure up to a human arm. Enhancements such as freely rotating wrist might be convenient, but progress in the field has a long way to go. Prosthetics with machine learning hold the promise of a huge step to making them easier to use, and work from Imperial College London and the University of Göttingen has made great progress.

The video below explains itself with a time-trial where a man must move clips from a horizontal bar to a nearby vertical bar. The task requires a pincer grasp and release on the handles, and rotation from the wrist. The old hardware does not perform the two operations simultaneously which seems clunky in comparison to the fluid motion of the learning model. User input to the arm is through electromyography (EMG), so it does not require brain surgery or even skin penetration.

We look forward to seeing this type of control emerging integrated with homemade prosthetics, but we do not expect them to be easy.

Thank you, [Qes], for another excellent tip.

One thought on “Artificial Limbs And Intelligence

  1. It’s like the difference between a backhoe operator who can smoothly manipulate all the joint levers simultaneously VS one who yanks one lever at a time all the way to its stop.

    It’s like watching a piano player to see a guy with both hands on the levers, fingers spread to touch and precisely move all the levers so the bucket and arm swoop down and scoop then lift up, swing and dump in smooth coordination. Unfortunately the guy running the other backhoe with the vibrating packer wasn’t anywhere near that good. He was crushing parts of the new sewer line. So that company was fired and a different one hired to complete the job. Their backhoe monkey would grab one lever at a time then yank or push it all the way to move one joint almost where it needed to be, followed by some quick jabs. (Company #2 didn’t turn out to be much better, they somehow forgot to reconnect a few businesses to the new sewer line. So after the new paving was in and the new sidewalks poured, parts had to be cut to fix their fails.)

    Could hardly hear other people talk in the office with that guy rattling his equipment apart in the street while the virtusoso’s operations added no noise above that of the engine.

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