Researchers in the University of Tokyo’s Inami Laboratory have built a device that gives wearers an extra pair of arms. Dubbed MetaLimbs, it’s controlled by a user’s feet and knees, enabling them to move the device’s arms around and even grasp objects.
“Our scientific motivation for this project was to explore how additional artificial limbs would affect body perception, especially which configurations would make a user perceive physical alterations of his or her body as part of itself, and how our abilities and activities could be enhanced by the use of such body augmentations,” Tomoya Sasaki, who lead the project, told Digital Trends. “MetaLimbs is a proof-of-concept prototype that explores these questions.”
Since control comes from a wearer’s feet and legs, MetaLimbs is designed to be used while sitting down. However, the researchers realize this isn’t always so efficient — so they’ve integrated features that let users assume control with their toes while standing. For these reasons, Sasaki thinks the device’s applications could be broad.
“In the industrial environment, workers could be more efficient or simply safer in manipulating dangerous or heavy loads,” he said. “Or in a very different field, the entertainment industry, MetaLimbs could be used to create and implement novel artistic performances. The possibilities are endless. A market-ready implementation would probably first increase the capabilities of professionals in their daily jobs.”
Don’t expect to get your hands on MetaLimbs any time soon though. The device is just a prototype and Sasaki said they aren’t considered commercializing, since they’re focused mainly on its academic implications. However, Sasaki invites anyone inspired by the device to take a shot and develop their own. He’s even willing to share a thing or two about his creation.
“We are happy if this project inspires others to build upon it and also to explore possible research collaborations with interested parties,” he said.
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