A team of students at Columbia University has been working on a robotic arm that reacts to facial gestures. The robotic arm is called, well, ARM, which stands for Assistive Robotic Manipulator and is aimed as a wheelchair attachment that would attend to the disabled. The goal of this venture was to build assistive tech that can be covered by insurance so the cost has been kept low. The crew was able to keep the price to an affordable $3,200 by using laser cut wood to build the artificial limb. The arm is actuated by EMG waves, rather than EEG signals for additional reliability. Most motions are handled using a PlayStation 2 controller, while others depend on more subtle signs. Raising your eyebrows makes the device open its grip, clenching your jaw shuts it and moving your lips to either side twists the claw. The robotic arm isn't as quick to grasp facial expressions but the creators assure that effectiveness increases with practice.
The next challenge for the robot is identifying and grabbing objects all by itself which would require some training in depth perception. A thoughtful innovation but isn't the size of the proposed arm a tad intimidating for the wheelchair-bound?
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