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Seg­way-like de­vice gives mo­bil­ity to para­plegics

For those with spinal cord in­juries and ill­nesses, sci­en­tists in Istanbul, Turkey, have cre­ated a ro­botic mo­bil­i­sa­tion de­vice that pro­vides a level of in­de­pen­dence far be­yond that avail­able to users of con­ven­tional wheel­chairs.

The Tek de­vice al­lows phys­i­cally chal­lenged peo­ple a range of lo­co­mo­tor move­ments such as mov­ing around in­de­pen­dently while be­ing able to use their hands, stand up, squat and a host of other move­ments that are cru­cial to ev­ery­day life.

The de­vice is en­tered from the back— un­like the front as with a wheel­chair. By at­tach­ing a thick, padded strap around the hips, para­plegics can ma­noeu­vre them­selves into the de­vice on their own. The de­vice uses a sus­pen­sion sys­tem that bal­ances their weight so that they can stand up with just a gen­tle pull.

The plat­form, de­signed by Turk­ish R&D com­pany AMS Meka­tronik, comes in five sizes and is be­ing mar­keted in Turkey at a price of $15,000.

Ro­botic gloves for work­ers

A hu­man grasp-as­sist de­vice called Robo-glove is be­ing de­vel­oped to help auto-work­ers and as­tro­nauts do their jobs bet­ter, while re­duc­ing the risk of in­juries caused by con­stant phys­i­cal stress.

Re­search shows that con­tin­u­ously grip­ping a tool can cause fa­tigue in hand mus­cles within a few min­utes. Ini­tial test­ing of the Robo-glove in­di­cates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more com­fort­ably, re­duc­ing the amount of force fac­tory work­ers need to hold a tool from 6.8 to 9.1 kg (15 to 20 pounds) to just 2.3 to 4.5 kg (5 to 10 pounds). It is ex­pected to cut down the risk of repet­i­tive mo­tion in­juries.

Ac­tu­a­tors em­bed­ded in the up­per por­tion of the glove pro­vide grasp­ing sup­port to hu­man fin­gers. Pres­sure sen­sors in the fin­ger­tips de­tect when the user is grasp­ing a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the syn­thetic ten­dons au­to­mat­i­cally re­tract, pulling the fin­gers into a grip­ping po­si­tion and hold­ing them there un­til the sen­sor gives the sig­nal to re­lease.

Cur­rent pro­to­types of the Robo Glove weigh about 1 kg, and in­clude the con­trol elec­tron­ics, ac­tu­a­tors and a small dis­play for pro­gram­ming and di­ag­nos­tics. An off-the-shelf lithium-ion pow­er­tool bat­tery with a belt-clip is used to power the sys­tem. A third-gen­er­a­tion pro­to­type that will use repack­aged com­po­nents to re­duce the size and weight of the sys­tem is near­ing com­ple­tion.

Ro­botic jel­ly­fish pow­ered by hy­dro­gen in water

Re­searchers at Virginia Tech have built Robo­jelly—a ro­botic jel­ly­fish that runs by suck­ing up hy­dro­gen while mov­ing through water. The ro­bot, still in the early stages of de­vel­op­ment, can even­tu­ally be used in un­der­wa­ter searc­hand-res­cue op­er­a­tions. Be­ing fu­elled by hy­dro­gen un­der­wa­ter means the ro­bot will not re­quire an ex­ter­nal power source and can also act as a ve­hi­cle.

Robo­jelly is built from shape-mem­ory al­loys. The ro­bot is pow­ered by heat pro­duced from chem­i­cal re­ac­tions be­tween oxy­gen and hy­dro­gen in the water and the plat­inum pow­der. The heat from the re­ac­tions is trans­ferred to the ar­ti­fi­cial mus­cles of the ro­bot, re­shap­ing them. Eight mov­ing seg­ments wrapped in car­bon nan­otubes and coated with a plat­inum pow­der repli­cate the nat­u­ral open­ing- and­clos­ing propul­sion method of jel­ly­fish.

The re­searchers’ next step is to fig­ure out a way to de­liver hy­dro­gen to each seg­ment sep­a­rately. This will al­low them to be con­trolled in­di­vid­u­ally so that the ro­bot can move in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

Ro­botic gloves for work­ers

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