New RoboGlove Design Gives Industrial Workers Super Grip

Grip assist device will give added strength and reduce fatigue in busy hands.

The Original GM/NASA RoboGlove. (Image courtesy GM.)

The Original GM/NASA RoboGlove. (Image courtesy GM.)

In the not too distant past, GM and NASA teamed up to develop a “robotic” glove to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station keep a grip on things in outer space.

Recently, GM has announced it will be bringing this Nintendo Powerglove lookalike back to Earth.

GM will be teaming up with Bioservo Technologies, a Swedish exo-skeleton developer, to combine the technology from Bioservo’s SEM (Soft Extra Muscle) glove with the original RoboGlove for manufacturing, medical and other industrial applications.

The original RoboGlove operated as a force-multiplying, battery-powered wearable. The glove used sensors, actuators and artificial tendons in a design comparable to nerves, muscles and tendons found in the human hand.

The technology developed for the hands of the Robonaut 2 (R2), launched into space in 2011, was the basis for the technology used to create the RoboGlove, which was used during a nine-year collaboration between GM and NASA.

The New RoboGlove

Anyone working in a manufacturing facility or as a repair technician has probably experienced fatigue in their hands, even after just a few minutes of continuously gripping a tool.

Bioservo will be developing a new grasp assist device for the RoboGlove to increase human operator efficiency by reducing fatigue in hand muscles in industrial applications.

“The successor to RoboGlove can reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions,” said Kurt Wiese, VP of GM Global Manufacturing Engineering.

Tomas Ward, CEO of Bioservo adds, “Combining the best of three worlds – space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo – in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial-scale use of the technology.”

Ward described the technology as significant step forward for introducing a soft exoskeleton globally, but GM intends to be the first US manufacturer to use the new RoboGlove.

GM will be testing the technology in some of its plants, but hasn’t yet shared which ones.

GM has already tested the new RoboGlove in an unnamed preproduction plant and intends to look for a partner to help redesign the glove to fit different sized hands, as well as address other issues.

It may not be an exoskeleton that gives you super-strength, but it’s a small step in that direction.

Are you excited to embrace exoskeleton technology? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.