Wearable exoskeleton lets researchers in Russia control a robot in Germany

You know that whole chaos theory idea (okay, we saw it in an Ashton Kutcher movie) about how a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can trigger a hurricane in another?

Well, the 2016 equivalent is a project where scientists in Russia wear an exoskeleton to control a connected robot in Germany.

Named CAPIO, the project is the work of DFKI, a kind of European DARPA focused on building robots for carrying out applications and tasks that can assist humans. One of its robots is called AILA, and is controllable using CAPIO, an eight-contact exoskeleton system that wearers can use to move AILA in real time.

Impressively, it even boasts haptic feedback to let users get a sense of what they may be “touching” many, many miles away.

“The idea behind the project was to combine AI software approaches like machine learning and robotics-based hardware design to achieve an exoskeleton that understands the user’s intentions in terms of arm movements, and supports those intentions seamlessly,” Professor Dr. Frank Kirchner, a roboticist, told Digital Trends.

The possible applications of CAPIO are endless. For example, with its impressively fine motor skills, it could be more accurately controlled by human operators from a great distance.

One dream involves humans controlling a robot on the International Space Station — which is actually just a tenth of the distance from Bremen, Germany, to Magnitogorsk, Russia — only vertical rather than horizontal. Another ambition, closer to the heart of Kirchner, is that it could function as an important tool in the rehabilitation of stroke patients by acting as their avatar on a 24/7 basis during their recovery.

“Once we [make] it even lighter and more wearable, we can think of giving these things to patients to take home and wear all day,” Kirchner said. “This way people will be able to move their arms again and be [self-sufficient] again.”

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