Dawn of the Ergonaut: GM and NASA Develop Robotic Gloves

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Weighing only two pounds, the K-glove has actuators embedded into the upper portion of the help humans avoid strain injury and fatigue.

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General Motors and NASA have been collaborating to develop a robotic glove to reduce the risk of repetitive strain in automotive workers and astronauts. The device, known as the K-glove, had its origins in another partnership between the two organizations, the Robonaut 2 project which we have covered previously on Medgadget.

During the Robonaut 2 project, the engineering team achieved a significant degree of dexterity and grasping functionality in the robot's hand using state of the art sensors and actuators. The K-glove is an adaption of these technologies to augment human grasping so that fatigue and repetitive strain injury arising from prolonged use of power tools may be avoided.

From the press release:

Inspired by the finger actuation system of R2, actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors, similar to the sensors that give R2 its sense of touch are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to 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 is released.

The video below provides a good overview of the current K-Glove prototype. Obviously, in order to reduce fatigue and strain, it is essential that the K-glove weighs as little as possible. The current prototypes weigh about two pounds, however a third-generation prototype is currently being developed which will reduce the size and weight of the overall system.


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

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