London: Engineers in US have developed a robotic hand that is capable of performing human tasks such as opening doors and typing.
The researchers have been trying to create robots with the manual dexterity to operate the machines people regularly encounter in everyday life, whether they are plain old computers, drinks vending machines, bus/tram/train ticketing machines or shopping mall info kiosks.
Shashank Priya and Nicholas Thayer of Virginia Tech have now designed a robotic hand, called "dexterous anthropomorphic robotic typing hand" (DART), that they hope to optimise for keyboard work, reports New Scientist.
"DART is being optimised for use by the humanoid robots being developed to assist elderly people who want to operate computers and other machines. And they will be able to do this by giving the robot voice commands,” they said.
As a first step, Thayer and Priya ruled out pneumatic artificial muscles, shape memory alloys and electroactive polymers as either too bulky or too inefficient to drive their keyboard-clacking digits.
They settled on using 19 tiny servomotors to actuate their hand—all placed in a forearm and connected to the joints via wire tendons that ensured "proper joint angles while typing."
In tests, one hand managed a top speed of 20 words per minute but by adding a left hand, a typing speed of over 30 wpm is anticipated. The average human typing speed is 33 wpm with two hands.
The findings were published in the Smart Materials and Structures, a journal published by the Institute of Physics in the UK.