Science 4 min read

Robot Arms: One Step Closer to a Mech Suit Exoskeleton

We may not have villains like Dr. Octopus yet, but with research into robot arms and exoskeletons, it could become a reality very soon.

Ociacia | Shutterstock.com

Ociacia | Shutterstock.com

We don’t have Tony Stark, but thanks to a number of compelling robotic arm developments in the robotics world, we may have Iron Man soon.

It all starts with the smallest of ripples. In this case, that ripple is research into robotic prosthetics and exoskeletons. In fact, you can even get robot arm kits these days.

How close are we to seeing Matt Damon in Elysium IRL?

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Stephanie Blomkamp | Columbia TriStar

From Fiction to Reality

You might think that Dr. Octopus from Spiderman is still far-fetched, but there’s a team working on robot arms (minus the spinal fusion and villainous intent). But they aren’t the first ones to do it either. A team from MIT tackled similar research starting in 2014.

The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #89 | Marvel Comics, Gil Kane, & John Romita, Sr.

As a result of long-standing sci-fi tech, the U.S. military is pursuing exoskeletons, too. But how close are we to robot arms as reality?

What are the uses, benefits, and potential drawbacks?

Robot Arms & You

The possible uses for robot arms and bionic limbs are apparent, but they have extended uses. There is a robot arm for sign language in development, as well as autonomous exoskeletons for practical measures such as load bearing. Similarly to Doc Oc, some researchers want to provide a third arm for your average human.

Think of all the things you do like surf the web and eat at the same time or write a paper and brush your teeth–you might be able to come up with more creative ideas in the comments.

Combining Bionic Arms with Nerve Reversal Surgery

One of the most intriguing breakthroughs regarding robot arms involves nerve reversal surgery. In the video below, an amputee actually uses her thoughts to control a bionic arm.

iLimb | Touch Bionics

Warning to our more squeamish readers: there is definitely blood and bone footage in the video.

 

Robot Arms Lend AI a Hand

On top of the augmentations for humans, robot arms can help artificial intelligence, too. A device from RightHand Robotics manipulates objects then uploads its acquired knowledge into a cloud. It then shares its knowledge with all of the other devices on that cloud.

This has clear applications when it comes to automation and autonomous workers and the numbers regarding profitability from bionics, exoskeleton, and robotic arms don’t suck. However, it’s not all good news, dollar signs, and technological breakthroughs.

However, it’s not all good news, dollar signs, and technological breakthroughs.

Carpal Tunnel but With Robot Arms and Hacking

One big downfall of automation is vulnerabilities regarding hacking. Depending on the development of robotic arms and bionics, this tech could face the same security concerns.

It naturally raises further concerns overall regarding Internet of Things advancements. Even trash-cans are connected to WiFi these days, so why not your autonomous car or exoskeleton?

Just one more entertainment reference. Ever played Deus Ex: Mankind Divided? In the not too distant future, this exact situation unfolds. Humans open themselves to physical augmentations like robotic arms, and eventually, a bad actor uses these augmentations to take control of all augmented humans. As you might guess, the augmented humans then attack regular, non-augmented humans. The subsequent social climate is one of fear, suspicion, and severe prejudice.

Would you opt for Doc Oc limbs, settle for a third arm, or hold out for a full-on mech suit exoskeleton?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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