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MIT upgrades the human hand with two robotic fingers

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Opening a 2-liter soda bottle with one hand has never been so easy

MIT

Stirring the milk you just poured in a hot cup of coffee usually requires two hands: one to hold the cup, and one to hold the spoon. The same goes for unscrewing the cap on a large bottle of soda. But students at MIT might have finally found a solution to this two-handed headache — albeit one that requires a slight upgrade.

By adding two extra-long fingers to the human hand, MIT's "7 finger robot" allows a user to perform a much wider range of tasks. Faye Wu, a mechanical engineering graduate student at MIT, said in a video about the project that the fingers take "the input from a sensor glove... that can measure the position of the human fingers." Then, an algorithm controls the output of the robotic add-ons using the position of the human fingers, as determined by the sensors. The idea here is to upgrade the human hand so it can perform task like holding very large, hot, or heavy items with ease. This, Wu said, may be especially important "for [the] elderly and people with disabilities," because "these fingers can help them enjoy living much more independently."

MIT's "7 finger robot" seems promising, but right now, the robotic hand more closely resembles a well designed science project than a product you would actually want to use regularly. But, with a bit more funding and a slightly sturdier and more eye-catching design, it might really help people enhance their productivity — and retain their independence.