Extra Set Of Robotic Arms Lends A Hand…Or Two


MIT researchers developed a set of wearable mechanical limbs that watch what the wearer does with their arms to decide how to move.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 4 june 2014

Researchers at the d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology at MIT have developed a set of Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRL) that are designed to assist the wearers with their tasks in an aircraft manufacturing setting.

Supernumerary Robotic Limbs are meant to work as a second set of limbs for the wearer and not as replacements for missing limbs. The set of wearable robotic arms developed at the d’Arbeloff Lab are designed to augment the workspace and skills of the user and help them perform tasks.

There are two models of the robotic arms. One has the arms extend from the shoulders of the wearer, while the other model features robotic arms that extend from the hips. Both models are worn on the body with a backpack-like harness with padded straps and a belt.

In the model with the arms extending from the hips, the unit rests behind the lower back of the user and contains the system actuators. The robotic arms are situated in such a way that interference with normal human motion is minimal and the robotic arms have a larger space to work in and are able to act as arms or legs, to help brace the wearer when performing heavy-duty tasks like drilling.



The shoulder-mounted robotic arms can assist the wearer in tasks that are above their head or during instances when the wearer’s natural arms are busy with something else. For example, the wearer’s natural arms can hold something up to the ceiling while the robotic arms screw them into place. Another example is being able to open the door with robotic arms while the wearer is carrying a large object with both natural hands.

The robotic arms watch what the wearer does with his arms to decide how to move. They do this by tracking inertial measurement units that are on the wearer’s wrists. A third inertial measurement unit is located at the shoulder mount of the robot to track its overall orientation and motion.


According to the researchers, the SRL prototypes work better than exoskeleton models to some extent because an exoskeleton puts all its force on the arms or legs where it is positioned, while the SRL prototypes are completely separate and provide more options.

The wearable robotic arm prototypes were presented recently at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong. The research is being funded by Boeing, which is trying to come up with ways to keep their aging aircraft builders safe from injury and more active.

Check out the videos below demonstrating how the SRL prototypes work.

d’Arbeloff Laboratory

Source: iO9, IEEE Spectrum


Turn Any Wearable Into A Mental Health Tracker

Fitness / Sport
Work Today

Amazon Is Experimenting With A 30-Hour Work Week

The online retailer is launching a pilot program that will allow a technical team to work with a considerably shortened schedule

Fitness / Sport Today

How The Rio Olympics Stood For More Than Just Games

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the finest moments beyond sports


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Retail Today

Mobile Travel App Embraces Cognitive Computing

The Orlando Tourism Board is looking to IBM Watson to provide personalized local recommendations for visitors

Automotive Today

Bike-Friendly Apartment Building For Swedish Cyclists

A residential space is being designed for commuters to easily transport goods

Advertising Today

Nike Takes Over An Entire City Block With A Giant Running Track

The Unlimited Stadium is shaped like a 100-meter sole print of the brand's LunarEpic sneaker

Gaming Today

Fortune Cookie Service Brings Bad News To Your Doorstep

To promote their new delivery service Blackbox, the creators of Cards Against Humanity are delivering unfortunate messages in an edible form


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Today

New Mentorship Ecosystems Benefit All Levels Of An Organization

PSFK’s Future of Work report explores how technology is being leveraged to support cross-team communication

Arts & Culture Today

This Picture Frame Could Be The Lava Lamp For A New Generation

Slow Dance makes real objects appear to move in slow motion

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: How Will Companies Staff The Workplace Of The Future?

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX examine the ways that a people-first workplace might disrupt the job hiring process

Arts & Culture Today

Airport Mural Puts Passengers In The Clouds

The installation in an Amsterdam terminal lets travelers float through a series of billowing 3D digital shapes

Automotive Today

DevBot Is An Intelligent, Driverless, Electric Car

The unmanned test vehicle from RoboRace is a preview of upcoming AI race models

Augmented / Virtual Reality Today

AR Ski Goggles Make Racing Down The Slopes Even More Immersive

Israeli startup RideOn weaves digital overlays into the thrill of skiing with an unconventional pair of protective eyewear


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Advertising Today

Japan Wants To Make 2020 Olympic Medals From Recycled Electronic Waste

The Tokyo Games could showcase the first-ever gold, silver and bronze awards made from discarded phones and computers

Culture Today

This Small Town Has Become A Hide-and-Seek World Championship Destination

An old abandoned village in Northern Italy has become a massive playground for over one hundred competitive players

Design Today

Garmin’s New Smartwatch Is Challenging The Luxury Market

The brand adds a premium version of its popular multi-sport trainer to its accessories collection

No search results found.