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You can learn to control a robotic arm in one hour

Sep. 26, 2023.
2 min. read Interactions

Multitask much? Read on.

About the writer

Amara Angelica

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Amara Angelica is Mindplex Senior Editor, and could use a few robot arms

Artist’s representation of a person with a robotic arm (credit: Ekaterina Ivanova/QMUL)

One-hour training is enough for people to carry out a task with one or more robotic arms, according to a new study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, Imperial College London and The University of Melbourne.

The study, published in the journal IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, investigated the potential of multiple robotic arms to help people perform tasks that require more than two hands.

“Many tasks in daily life, such as opening a door while carrying a big package, require more than two hands,” said Dr. Ekaterina Ivanova, lead author of the study, from Queen Mary University of London. “Supernumerary robotic arms have been proposed as a way to allow people to do these tasks more easily, but until now, it was not clear how easy they would be to use.” 

Perhaps like Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 (1963)?

Dr. Octopus, with four long tentacles as extra hands. After a failed fusion experiment, eccentric and obsessive scientist Dr. Otto Octavius is transformed into super-villain Doctor Octopus (credit: Sony Pictures)

The study involved 24 participants who were asked to perform a variety of tasks with more than two robotic arms. The participants were either given one hour of training in how to use the arm, or they were asked to work with a partner. 

The results showed that the participants who had received training on the supernumerary arm performed the tasks just as well as the participants who were working with a partner.

“Our findings are promising for the development of supernumerary robotic arms,” said Ivanova. “They suggest that these arms could be used to help people with a variety of tasks, such as surgery, industrial work, or rehabilitation.” 

Citation: Yanpei Huang, Jonathan Eden, Ekaterina Ivanova, Etienne Burdet (16-Aug-2023). Can Training Make Three Arms Better Than Two Heads for Trimanual Coordination? IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology. Vol. 4. 10.1109/OJEMB.2023.3305808 (open-access)

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