MetaLimbs: A Way To Have An Extra Pair Of Arms
Written by Lucy Black   
Saturday, 10 June 2017

Have you ever wanted a second set of arms? Now you can have your wish come true with the help of robotic MetaLimbs.

It is difficult to know how much of a useful addition a second set of arms would be, but the video suggests that they are more successful than you might imagine. The big problem with any additional limbs is that you need to find a way to control them. The human neural system is big but it isn't so big that it can adapt easily to control additional devices. Your arms and legs most likely occupy most of the processing power of the motor  cortex. Simply adding an extra pair of arms is likely going to result in a catastrophic failure of coordination. Your existing arms an legs might just move correctly without you thinking much about it but an extra set would remain an alien addon.

This is where the clever idea behind MetaLimbs comes in. Why not use the legs to control the extra pair of arms!?

Sensors are attached to each leg so that the movements of the leg are mimicked by the arm. The extra hand is controlled by the foot and the big toe is mapped to the thumb. To pick something up with your extra hand all you have to do is pretend to grasp it with your foot. 

Now that you know how it works take a look at the video:


I'm not at all sure about the soldering example. I think I'd put the work piece in the extra hand and hold the hot iron in my real hand - less likely to go horribly wrong if I got a leg twitch.




I would also have like to have seen some of the earlier examples that demonstrated that humans didn't have enough hands such as the door opening clip being solved with the MetaArms but, of course, the system really only works if you are sitting down. Consider what would happen if the subjects started to walk!

The idea is that the plasticity of the human brain would slowly allow the user to become perfectly integrated with the MetaLimbs. You can see in the video that some of the manipulations appear reasonably natural. It is a bit like using your feet to say control a car which eventually becomes part of your extended body. So far there are no details on how well the integration might be working and no information on any interference with leg control. I can imagine after using the MetaLimbs for some time you might well have problems walking while trying to grab hold of a door handle with your non-existent additional arms.



It is also clear that software can help with the problem even more. The leg only has to provide a vague indication of what the arm has to do and some AI could fine tune the actual movements. This is an idea that could run and run...

More Information

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 10 June 2017 )