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Robot to Human: Go Ahead, Smash my Hand With a Hammer. I Can Take It.

DiscoblogBy Patrick MorganJanuary 26, 2011 11:07 PM


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Robots aren't only getting smarter nowadays--they're also getting stronger. Researchers have now created a robot hand that can withstand hammer hits and other hard blows. Led by Markus Grebenstein, the researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) created a robot hand that functions virtually as well as a human's appendage. The dexterous hand has 19 degrees of freedom--considering that the human hand has 20 degrees of freedom, that's pretty good. The hand's delicate movements are controlled by 38 tendons, each linked to a separate motor on the forearm. From IEEE Spectrum:

Another key element in the DLR design is a spring mechanism connected to each tendon. These springs ... give the tendons, which are made from a super strong synthetic fiber called Dyneema, more elasticity, allowing the fingers to absorb and release energy, like our own hands do. This capability is key for achieving robustness and for mimicking the kinematic, dynamic, and force properties of the human hand.

The tendons, when tensed, are what allow the hand to withstand hits. But just how strong of a hit can it endure? The hand remained resilient after receiving a blow of 66 G's administered by a baseball bat. Researchers are pleased with the outcome and see it as a big step towards more widespread use of service robots. As IEEE Spectrum reports:

“If every time a robot bumps its hand, the hand gets damaged, we’ll have a big problem deploying service robots in the real world,” Grebenstein says.

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