Robotic arm technology is nothing new, but it's recently been making headlines in the news. The advancements in this technology have increased in the past decade with new uses that many consider a threat to the job market. Robotic arm technology is now used to replace human workers in many sectors of the work force, but this isn't its only use. Here are the five major advances in robotic arm technology that have occurred in the past ten years.
1. Robotic arm controlled by electrical signals from the brain
In May of 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new type of robotic arm technology that is controlled by electronic signals that are sent from muscles in the human body. It is referred to as an electromechanical limb that is designated for use as a prosthetic. This innovation can be produced for amputees who have lost an arm at the shoulder joint, the middle lower arm or the middle upper arm. This device is the creation of DEKA Research and Development which was founded by the inventor of the Segway transporter and several medical devices, Dean Kamen. The DEKA company was granted $40 million for development of the arm but was still in need of assistance for the mass production of the technology. This new type of biological technology shows tremendous potential for restoring mobility to amputees. In tests, it proved effective for providing gripping strength for turning keys in locks and other similar tasks. One tester reported that he sensed objects through the artificial fingers on the hands.
2. Medical robotic arm technology
A new type of RAT has been developed in a collaboration between the MDA Space Missions and the Seaman Magnetic Resonance Centre in Calgary, Canada. Their research has tweaked the tech for the Canadarm created in 1998 for space missions, to develop what is currently known as the "NeuroArm" This robotic arm has been tested and shows a high degree of accuracy for use in performing surgical procedures. The arm is capable of using miniaturized tools including laser scalpels to perform surgery. It can also cauterize, suture, insert needles and manipulate soft tissue. NeuroArm technology has spurred the recent interest in performing remote surgeries when a surgeon is not available in a certain location.
3. New RAT for underwater work
An announcement was made in 2018, sharing the news that a new transformer was designed to do the underwater work for members of the military and oil industries with robotic arm technology. This takes the innovations underwater with the "Aquanaut" which weighs in at 2,315 pounds. It was developed by Houston Mechatronics which is a small company created by former robot engineers from NASA. The Aquanaut is a combined underwater vehicle with limbs that can be operated from a distance of up to 124 miles away.
4. Robot manipulation technology
Another innovation in 2018 is the advancement of robot manipulation. This is the ability of a robot to use its hands to perform precision tasks. According to Robert Platt or the Helping Hands robotics lab at Northeastern, work on this science has been ongoing for decades and the team has just made a huge leap forward with advancements in robot perception combined with Big Data and machine learning. Robots are actually able to perform tasks that require the use of fine motor skills without the need of an operator insinuating remote controls. The robots can be trained to locate objects, to grip them and to detect unfamiliar objects and remove them with an accuracy rate of 93 percent. The advances that have been made in this field of robotics are significant and they hold promise for mind blowing scenarios for the future. This type of tech explosion also has people worried about the potential impact it could have on the future of the work force. With this type of capability, could robots soon replace humans in a wide segment of the job market?
5. Bestic robotic arm
A recent addition to the list of the most amazing advances in robotic arm technology this decade is the Bestic robotic arm. It's a miniature sized device that features a variety of settings for spoon height and depth for people who have limited arm mobility. It is a robotic caregiver in many senses because the Bestic can be used to fill a spoon and hold it to the mouth to make eating easier. It's currently available in the United States and Europe.
Written by Garrett Parker
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