Remotely controlled robotic arms could perform surgeries

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A team of researchers is working to eliminate rigid movements in robotic arms to make them more agile. The goal is that in the future they can stack dishes or even perform delicate surgeries.

Advances may allow, in the near future, doctors to be able to perform surgeries remotely or they can help eliminate high-hazard explosive devices.

The new project involves the construction of robotic arms with remote control, which do not have heavy motors traditionally installed in the wrist joints. Instead, these “stronger” devices are placed on the base of the machine.

“Without arm motors, these robots are much lighter than a traditional arm,” says Peter Whitney, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University. “Once you have access to a lighter arm, it’s much easier to move it,” he says.

The advance has the potential to overcome a fundamental obstacle researchers face when controlling robots remotely: understanding the environment in which the machine finds itself.

These days, “it’s hard to figure out exactly where the robot is, whether it’s touching something or not, or how hard it’s touching an object,” explains Whitney, whose research focuses on robot design.

“All of these are factors that can influence how we can perform well, but also maintain safety,” he adds.

Due to these difficulties, the researchers want the machine to make available real-time information which indicate how much force is being applied so that the robot is best monitored.

“When we try to grab or manipulate an object, we can make use of these contact forces,” says Whitney.

The researcher is also collaborating with Taskin Padir, professor of electrical and computer engineering, in order to study the potential of remotely controlled robots to be used to physically interact with friends and family, serving as a mechanical substitute, advances the TechXplore.

Ana Isabel Moura, ZAP //