Have you ever gotten so frustrated trying to open a door while holding a coffee cup that you invented a pair of supplemental robotic arms that were controlled by your feet? I’m not sure that’s why a team at the Inami Hiyama Laboratory created MetaLimbs, which will be showcased at this year’s Siggraph 2017 Emerging Technologies showcase. But this delightful video suggests that it might have been, and that’s great.
The MetaLimbs project is simultaneously silly and elegant. To use MetaLimbs, you strap tracking markers to your feet and knees, allowing you to control the wrist and elbow joints of two metal arms. You also outfit your toes with bend sensors, so squeezing them lets the robotic hands make fists. There’s even limited force feedback — when something touches a “hand,” it triggers a simple squeeze band on your foot.
You’re supposed to use these arms while seated, when your feet aren’t otherwise occupied. (Suggested uses include holding drinks or shaking hands.) But you can also use them while standing, if you’re okay with looking like you’re doing an awkward little dance.
There may not be a big future in leg-controlled hands, when you’ve got mind-controlled or completely autonomous prosthetic limbs on the horizon. But as someone who has definitely tried to learn to write with their feet, this is still a strangely attractive proposition.