RoboGlove helps reduce strain for workers building cars.
Some General Motors factory workers may soon look a little more like androids as they assemble your next car. GM is planning to test a new RoboGlove, which is based on technology GM designed in partnership with NASA, to reduce strain and improve grip in workers at some of its plants.
GM and NASA spent nine years developing the “Soft Extra Muscle” technology for use on a space robot that launched in 2011. The RoboGlove is described by Swedish manufacturer Bioservo as a soft exoskeleton. It uses special sensors and “tendon-like” servos to help multiply the wearer’s gripping or lifting force. The operator wears a belt-mounted battery pack, plus a glove with finger sensors and an arm wrap that contains most of the servos and actuators.
For somebody working a strenuous, repetitive job in a car assembly plant, wearing the glove could “reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions,” GM global manufacturing engineering vice president Kurt Wiese said in a statement.
Bioservo will sell versions of the glove for various different applications, including healthcare, but GM plans to be the first U.S. manufacturer to put the system into action. GM already tested a preproduction version of the RoboGlove and approached Bioservo for help developing versions suited to different sizes of hands and other real-world reliability issues.