Metalimbs Allows You to Strap on Two Robotic Arms and Control Them With Your Feet

Most people on this planet have felt the need for a third arm at some point in their lives. Even though most of us still have two working arms, it seems we can’t always hold everything we want to. Try to juggle a drink, food, and your phone at the same time, for example. Luckily, it appears there is a solution available, courtesy of the Keio University. Their Metalimbs project makes it easy to have additional arms. That doesn’t make it look less alien, though.

Strapping on an Extra set of Arms

It has to be said, we will probably never be physically able to grow a third of fourth arm naturally. While there are some major advancements in the medical sector as of late, sprouting additional limbs is still far away. You never know what the future may hold, but for now, we have to look for alternative solutions in this department.

For those of us who want to own a  spare set of arms, a new solution has been created. Metalimbs is a project developed by researchers at the Keio University and the University of Tokyo. It is anything but surprising to see such a powerful solution come out of Japan, though. That being said, the Metalimbs project is quite interesting, considering it is a solution that can be strapped to your back without too much friction.

Metalimbs gives wearers an extra set of mechanical arms which effectively allow you to hold up to four different things at once. The arms protrude from an item worn on the user’s back, although it is not your traditional backpack either. What makes Metalimbs rather interesting – and scary – is how you can control the robotic arms with existing limbs. More specifically, the legs and feet of the wearer control how the arms operate. Tap dancers may turn into full-fledged four-armed jugglers if this project ever comes to market.

Once the wearer raises the left leg, the left arm will move in sync. Curling your toes will allow the robot hand on that limb to make a fist. Users will receive haptic feedback through feet-worn slippers of some sorts. It sounds very complicated, although it is a matter of training until one seemingly gets the hang of it. Moreover, it is not hard to see how this technology is designed to be used while sitting, even though it is possible to stand up and add basic motor skills to your robotic limbs. You may look ridiculous while trying to do so, however.

One thing especially worth noting is how users can replace the robotic hands in exchange for other attachments. Metalimbs may not necessarily make precision soldering any easier when you control the arms and hands with your feet, but it is an intriguing concept nonetheless. Especially amputee victims could benefit from such a solution, although it remains to be seen if there is a market for such a product in the first place.

It is unclear whether or not the Metalimbs product will ever come to market on a commercial scale. For now, it appears production of these robotic limbs may only be a matter of time. The product will be demonstrated during the upcoming SIGGRAPH 2017 conference at the end of July. It is a very interesting concept, albeit perhaps not too practical at first glance.

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