Robots, like virtually every other machine, are designed to make our lives easier or more productive. You car is just a complex machine that makes travel faster and less difficult. A 3D printer is just a robot that makes fabrication faster and less difficult. Just about every task you perform on a day to day basis can potentially be made easier with the right machine or robot, and this backpack-mounted robotic arm gives you that third hand that would be useful in so many situations.
This robotic arm was developed by doctoral student Julian Whitman in Carnegie Mellon’s Biorobotics Lab. It uses a modular actuator system that was originally developed for a snake robot. Because the actuators are modular, the snake robot could be expanded as needed and individual modules could be replaced if they ever failed. But those modules have also found a home in other robots, because they’re so versatile. Whitman’s backpack-mounted robotic arm is one of the newest.
The backpack houses the robotic arm’s control electronics, as well as sturdy frame to support the weight of the arm. The arm extends from that over the wearer’s shoulder, and can be used as a third hand. The robotic arm is controlled by either a joystick or voice commands, but Whitman hopes to give it its own sense of perception in the future so it can help out more autonomously. He envisions a design like this being used in the automotive or aerospace industries, where a technician needs to hold a part up while they work on it with their hands. The robotic arm could be commanded to hold the part in place, freeing the technician’s hands to do the dexterous work.