What started as a lofty goal is slowly moving closer to reality, as DARPA continues research on low-cost robotic hands capable of accomplishing everyday human tasks. In yet another show of progress, the agency has released a clip of a robot that can remove a car tire, though it hasn't yet mastered the art of putting it back on. Still, experts are nonetheless enthused that they've been able to mimic finer movements of a human hand. Even more important is the breakthrough budget they're working with.
As The New York Times reports, robots with a similar feature set have traditionally costed upwards of $10,000 to produce, but DARPA and its partners believe they can realistically build robotic hands for less than $3,000. The Pentagon has greater ambitions for the project; eventually it wants to develop a robot capable of detecting an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) by touch alone. A prior DARPA-funded project found that robots are capable of recognizing textures to a much greater degree than humans, so Washington's goal isn't all that unrealistic. DARPA's project is owed financing for 18 more months, during which researchers hope to refine how robots manipulate objects in their grasp, among other improvements.