Mechatronic Hand Mimics Human Anatomy to Achieve Dexterity

Behold the wondrous complexity of the human hand. Twenty-seven bones working in concert with muscles, tendons, and ligaments extending up the forearm to produce a range of motions that gave us everything from stone tools to symphonies. Our hands are what we use to interface with the physical world on a fine level, and it’s understandable that we’d want mechanical versions of ourselves to include hands that were similarly dexterous.

That’s a tall order to fill, but this biomimetic mechatronic hand is a pretty impressive step in that direction. It’s [Will Cogley]’s third-year university design project, which he summarizes in the first video below. There are two parts to this project; the mechanical hand itself and the motion-capture glove to control it, both of which we find equally fascinating. The control glove is covered with 3D-printed sensors for each joint in the hand. He uses SMD potentiometers to measure joint angles, with some difficulty due to breakage of the solder joints; perhaps he could solve that with finer wires and better strain relief.

The hand that the glove controls is a marvel of design, like something on the end of a Hollywood android’s arm. Each finger joint is operated by a servo in the forearm pulling on cables; the joints are returned to the neutral position by springs. The hand is capable of multiple grip styles and responds fairly well to the control glove inputs, although there is some jitter in the sensors for some joints.

The second video below gives a much more detailed overview of the project and shows how [Will]’s design has evolved and where it’s going. Anthropomorphic hands are far from rare projects hereabouts, but we’d say this one has a lot going for it.

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Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube With One Hand Tied Behind Its Back

For all those who have complained about Rubik’s Cube solving robots in the past by dismissing purpose-built rigs that hold the cube in a non-anthropomorphic manner: checkmate.

The video below shows not only that a robot can solve the classic puzzle with mechanical hands, but it can also do it with just one of them – and that with only three fingers. The [Yamakawa] lab at the University of Tokyo built the high-speed manipulator to explore the kinds of fine motions that humans perform without even thinking about them. Their hand, guided by a 500-fps machine vision system, uses two opposing fingers to grip the lower part of the cube while using the other finger to flick the top face of the cube counterclockwise. The entire cube can also be rotated on the vertical axis, or flipped 90° at a time. Piecing these moves together lets the hand solve the cube with impressive speed; extra points for the little, “How’s that, human?” flick at the end.

It might not be the fastest cube solver, or one that’s built right into the cube itself, but there’s something about the dexterity of this hand that we really appreciate.

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Greasing Robot Hands: Variable Friction Makes Robo-Mitts More Like Our Own

Unless you are in the fields of robotics or prosthetics, you likely take for granted the fine motor skills our hands have. Picking up and using a pen is no small feat for a robot which doesn’t have a dedicated pen-grabbing apparatus. Holding a mobile phone with the same gripper is equally daunting, not to mention moving that phone around once it has been grasped. Part of the wonder of our hands is the shape and texture which allows pens and phones to slide around at one moment, and hold fast the next moment. Yale’s Grab Lab has built a gripper which starts to solve that problem by changing the friction of the manipulators.

A spring-loaded set of slats with a low-friction surface allow a held object to move freely, but when more pressure is exerted by the robot, the slats retract and a high-friction surface contacts the object. This is similar to our fingers with their round surfaces. When we brush our hands over something lightly, they graze the surface but when we hold tight, our soft flesh meets the surface of the object and we can hold tightly. The Grab Lab is doing a great job demonstrating the solution and taking steps to more capable robots. All hail Skynet.

We have no shortage of gripper designs to choose from, including pneumatic silicone and one that conforms to an object’s surface, similar to our hands.

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Sonar in Your Hand

Sonar measures distance by emitting a sound and clocking how long it takes the sound to travel. This works in any medium capable of transmitting sound such as water, air, or in the case of FingerPing, flesh and bone. FingerPing is a project at Georgia Tech headed by [Cheng Zhang] which measures hand position by sending soundwaves through the thumb and measuring the time on four different receivers. These readings tell which bones the sound travels through and allow the device to figure out where the thumb is touching. Hand positions like this include American Sign Language one through ten.

From the perspective of discreetly one through ten on a mobile device, this opens up a lot of possibilities for computer input while remaining pretty unobtrusive. We see prototypes which are more capable of reading gestures but also draw attention if you wear them on a bus. It is a classic trade-off between convenience and function but this type of reading is unique and could combine with other bio signals for finer results.

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Need A Hand? How About Two?

A helping hand goes a long way to accomplishing a task. Sometimes that comes in the form of a friend, and sometimes it’s a pair of robotic hands attached to your arm.

Italian startup [Youbionic] have developed this pair of 3D printed hands which aim to extend the user’s multi-tasking capacity. Strapped to the forearm and extending past the user’s natural hand, they are individually operated by flexing either the index or ring fingers. This motion is picked up by a pair of flex sensor strips — a sharp movement will close the fist, while a slower shift will close it halfway.

At present, the hands are limited in their use — they are fixed to the mounting plate and so are restricted to gripping tasks, but with a bit of practice could end up being quite handy. Check out the video of them in action after the break!

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Fail of the Week: Good Prosthetic Hand Design Goes Bad

Is this a case of a good design gone wrong in the build phase? Or is this DIY prosthetic arm a poor design from the get-go? Either way, [Will Donaldson] needs some feedback, and Hackaday is just the right place for that.

Up front, we’ll say kudos to [Will] for having the guts to post a build that’s less than successful. And we’ll stipulate that when it comes to fully articulated prosthetic hands, it’s easy to fail. His design is ambitious, with an opposable thumb, fingers with three phalanges each, a ball and socket wrist, and internal servos driving everything. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, with a little bit of an I, Robot meets Stormtrooper look.

But [Will]’s build was plagued with print problems from the start, possibly due to the complex nature of the bosses and guides within the palm for all the finger servos. Bad prints led to creaky joints and broken servos. The servos themselves were a source of consternation, modified as they were for continuous rotation and broken apart for remotely mounting their pots in the hand’s knuckles. The video below relates the tale of woe.

There’s a lot to admire with [Will]’s build, but it certainly still has its issues. He’s almost to the point of other more successful DIY hand builds but just needs a little help. What say you in the comments line? Continue reading “Fail of the Week: Good Prosthetic Hand Design Goes Bad”

Three Thumbs, Way, Way Up!

At least one in their lives — or several times a day — everyone has wished they had a third hand to help them with a given task. Adding a mechanical extra arm to one’s outfit is a big step, so it might make sense to smart small, and first add an extra thumb to your hand.

This is not a prosthetic in the traditional sense, but a wearable human augmentation envisioned by [Dani Clode], a master’s student at London’s Royal College of Art. The thumb is 3D-printed out of Ninjaflex and mounted to a printed brace which slides over the hand. One servo rotates the thumb, and a second pulls it closed using a bowden cable system — not unlike that of a bicycle brake. Control of the thumb is achieved by pressure sensors in the wearer’s shoes, linked via Bluetooth to a wristband hosting the servos and the electronics. We already use our hands and feet in conjunction, so why not capitalize on this intuitive link?

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