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Science Technology

Bionic Arm With Muscle Emulation 118

Gugo writes "German based company FESTO has develop a bionic arm that uses muscle emulation,(video included) with a product called 'fluidic muscle.' It works like a normal animal-human muscle but moved by air inside. This new type of prosthetic offers rapid response, small size, simple assembly and ease of control. On their website they show the range of fluidic muscles with a car race simulator."
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Bionic Arm With Muscle Emulation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 23, 2007 @02:57PM (#20333941)
    for giving one's self "the stranger"
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @02:57PM (#20333947) Homepage Journal
    We have the technology.
    • Looks more like the Terminator than the Six Million Dollar Man. They need to work on some sort of natural covering.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        No problem. They just need to hook up with These guys [].
      • About the natural covering...

        Warning, if you are at work, please do NOT follow this link, but if you are at a safe place where you can see a bit of porn, this is a link to a lifelike silicone doll: [].

        Not that I am trying to post porn on Slashdot, but a link to what kind of technology is available to make a lifelike human form suitable for prostheses.

        I can imagine the silicone covering fluidic muscles which would look very lifelike, even warm to the touch, and feel just like real muscles.

    • > We have the technology.

      Never mind Steve Austin. We can make him better... stronger... stretchier! []

      (Now where was I? Oh yeah--the important thing was that I had a Stretch Armstrong action figure, which was the style at the time. They didn't have fluidic muscles because of the gas crisis. The only thing you could get was those cornsyrup-in-latex ones...)

    • by sharkey ( 16670 )
      But I don't want to spend a lot of money. []
    • Did anyone notice that in the video, the robotic arm seems to be writing "Help" on the screen, pleading for someone to assist it? It looked so sad...

  • Arms (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pretendstocare ( 816218 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @02:58PM (#20333963) Homepage
    I would only buy one if it could break people's arms while arm wrestling
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      Muscle emulation can only virtually break arms.
    • >I would only buy one if it could break people's arms while arm wrestling

      Can't patent that, prior art [].

      My only question, if you get a leak in the air lines, does it sound like you're farting? Because if it does, bionic arms have gotten even more totally awesome than before.
      • >My only question, if you get a leak in the air lines, does it sound like you're farting? Because if it does, bionic arms have gotten even more totally awesome than before. No, that's only an option with the bionic armpit.
    • I would only buy one if it could break people's arms while arm wrestling
      You know they make a chinese arcade game [] for that..
  • by ThePyro ( 645161 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @03:00PM (#20334003)
    Wow... even a woman should be able to use it!
  • High Five (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gman14msu ( 993012 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @03:04PM (#20334077)
    Two fully functioning arms sitting next to each other in the video..... and no high fives?! What a waste of technology!
    • I say, you seem to be hell bent on diluting the already watered-down significance of the elevated hand slap!
    • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @03:49PM (#20334775) Homepage
      I'm not surprised. I realized long ago that robotics engineers are experts at missing the awesome potential of their creations. For instance, we commonly see high-tech robot demonstrations in which a robot dances, but not one of these engineers thinks of making them dance the robot? Sure it's impressive to see a robot waltz smoothly, but it seems almost unconscionable to not end the demonstration by dropping a nice breakbeat and having the robot pop-lock it's way off-stage.

  • Will these devices in the market in time to play with a copy of Duke Nukem Forever?

    The easiest way to earn money with your web [].
  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @03:05PM (#20334113) Homepage
    ...robotic handjob.
  • I seem to recall years ago a story about Disney using similar sounding technology to create more life like animatronics for rides like "It's a small world". Anyone have any reference to descriptions of that origional technology for a comparison? I can't find it now.
    • Disney used robotic arms alright, but they weren't quite as advanced as this one. I believe they ran off of motors and hydraulic pumps. The bionic arms in the article actually "flex" fluid filled "muscles".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    when the technology progresses enough to build left arms as well. Current ETA is 2014.
  • In the video, the arm still looks clumsy. Its movements are similar to the ones in the movie Short Circuit. Sure, this looks a little more realistic (or it would if there was some sort of skin simulation), but without sophisticated software to enable more lifelike movements, I don't see how this is any better than what we already had.
    • by Fox_1 ( 128616 )
      Short Circuit was not actually a documentary.
      I hate to burst the bubble, well actually I don't hate too []
      Yeah turns out it was all done with puppets, not even real robot actors, the AI actors league (Under the Robotic Overlords) is still pretty upset over the unfair characterization of robots as gullible and naive.
      • Short Circuit was not actually a documentary.
        Says who? Johnny Five is Alive!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

          Says who? Johnny Five is Alive!
          God, I loved that movie as a kid. I've purposefully avoided watching it again as an adult so as to not ruin the memory. George Lucas has taught me well. Rape can have a positive result!
  • This sort of research is some of the most useful and cool that's out there. Bettering ourselves with technology makes perfect sense to me, and that includes our injured selves. As this tech progresses and matures and becomes more cost-effective, I look forward to seeing it replace the usual rigid prosthetic limbs that so many people sport nowadays. The more realistic, useful, and durable the better, and this festo research is definitely privileging those factors.
  • Will they attach a few electrodes to someone's head and try to control that thing using bio feed back? Why not the CEO's head? I am not only Bionic Arm Club President, but also a user?
  • It does not look like its percision is very good, or at least no where near what a pneumatic approach can give you. I mean in the video it bearly could write huge letters. Obviously design evolution could help in this, but unlike a biological system, it will not get better percision with more use. Personally, I think that Pneumatic systems are the best for arms because their speed, accuracy, repeatablility, and sheer power are just amazing. I will admit that they are not without their problems as well,
    • this sort of ligament-based actuation has not developed more? The principle of having a small deflecting force among the muscle fibers producing a large sum force at the joint seems very elegant. Are the alternatives (pneumatic, hydraulic, servo) that much better? Maybe this design will turn out to be far more energy efficient than those.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        This actually is a hydraulic device. There are a lot of reasons linear actuators aren't more commonly used in robotic applications: they lack the force-to-weight ratio to be effective when hooked up like a real muscle; they draw a lot of current; they're heavy; they have to be always energized. The fluidic/hydraulic or pneumatic systems allow you to displace the power generator from the power application, so you relieve the power-to-weight issue (at least for fixed installations-if you want a human to ca
  • Emulation is slow, just do an arm API implementation.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @03:32PM (#20334503) Homepage

    Festo does good work. They're an industrial automation company, and they do demos like this for promotional purposes. Check out their videos on YouTube.

    The innovation here is not "fluidic muscles". It's their piezoelectric proportional valves. It's been possible for years to do precision control of pneumatics. Twenty years ago, "Pneumatic Valves, Inc." in Palo Alto was doing control like that. But older proportional valves were big and expensive, with a voice coil actuator on the end of a spool valve. Festo has miniaturized the technology with their piezoelectric valves [].

    Pneumatic systems have traditionally been either force actuators or devices driven to a limit stop. Fine position control was the domain of hydraulics. This is changing. For pneumatic systems, if the valves can be brought close to the actuator, the valves are fast, position sensors are used, and the control system is well designed, the system becomes quite controllable. That's what Festo is demonstrating here.

    You can also do some things with pneumatics you can't do well with electrical drive, such as create springs with variable spring constants. Muscles can be usefully modeled as spring-damper systems, where the spring constant, zero point, and damping constant are all controllable. This can be emulated with electrical actuators, but emulating a spring in software requires high-powered actuators and loses energy. Legged running work needs something like a variable spring, and pneumatics are currently the closest thing to muscles available.

  • Can I get one with rocket power?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ah they have this figured out but did they figure out how to fix the problem with balance? when robots' arms move one way their body goes the opposite, they jerk every time they move [the movement causes this] we humans balance ourselves so that any movement is counterbalanced by another so we don't "jerk"
    fast movements cause the jerk not the jeriness of the motion its self: 7348397814&q=japan+fembot&total=3&start=0&num=10&s o=0&t []
  • It looks promising, but for a real prosthetic, wouldn't you have to drag an air compressor around with you?
  • being able to use the technology will cost you an arm and a leg.
  • /. kills the FESTO website.
    "The connection was reset while trying to load the page."
    Guess everyone still wants a shiny new bionic right arm.
  • Linux on a nano-ITX board.... B-)
  • for a second there I thought it said FISTO not FESTO.
  • one of the coolest things I've seen.

    It's handwriting is better than mine :(
  • What about aerogels doped with metals that contract electromagnetically?

    One valuable feature of muscles is their power:weight ratio. Aerogels are extremely light - now something like only 20% lighter than air. And they have lots of other valuable engineering properties, including high strength (up to their critical collapse point). And they're cheap to manufacture (in their current form).

    Why go with mere "air muscles", when aerogels could offer a much more highly structured, functional material?
    • Why go with mere "air muscles", when aerogels could offer a much more highly structured, functional material?
      First reason: Festo are a pneumatics company. Getting their sales guys to acknowledge the existence of an actuator that isn't a cylinder is apparently near-impossible. Second reason: electro-active polymers are now almost strong enough to give a child a run for their money. Air muscles will pull hundreds of kilos without problems
      • I don't expect Festo do do anything that isn't an evolution of their pneumatics biz. And while electro-active polymers might be their next competition, I don't see why yet another company can't beat them both with aerogel muscles. Especially for flying robots, where power:weight is mostly lost in the motor. But all these mobile devices could get longer life on smaller (lighter) batteries with aerogel muscles.

        Maybe the current and next generations are already in the pipeline. But I expect we'll eventually se
  • while searching for another version of the slashdotted article, i found this 08429.html/ []. its dated april 2006 and appears to be about the same product, running the same demo. dunno if its just an incorrect timestamp, or if this is just really old news.

  • Maybe he's designed this arm for his friend: []
  • Is this a dupe of that article about those people who got their arms broken by a Japanese arcade machine? ;^)

  • This new type of prosthetic offers rapid response, small size, simple assembly and ease of control.

    Sweet! I can go pick one up at IKEA!
  • Wasn't R2D2's arm tool good enuff? it did everything! and you can be a total hax0r with it! open security doors and whatever! Stop making an arm. Make a Swiss ARMy knife!
  • Couldn't get to the video, but it sounds like the Shadow Air Muscle [] - they sell the individual 'muscles' and have a whole hand using the same stuff.

    They were building a very ambitious Biped Walker [] out of wood a while back but it seems to have been scrapped now.

  • A little redundant, unless you're a creationist.
  • I used this to give myself a Dutch rudder, it was pretty good.
  • Some years back, Festo started wandering round our website every week. Then they came out with their muscles - which, of course, they had to give a different name... Now, they've produced something we did, ooh, 6 years ago? Still, the marketing is pretty slick. Anyway, we've got hands [] to build...
  • We have been using one of these "muscle" actuators as a clutch actuator in our racing car for about half a year now. So the muscle itself is not a new product. So far we did not have any problems with it or any other component of the car's pneumatic system which were provided entirely by them. And I also have seen that hand demo months ago. However, I must admit that I am surprised at the precision with which these muscles are controlled in the demos. You cannot do that with a set of standard valves. We are
    • You cannot do that with a set of standard valves.
      You're using one of: the wrong valves, the wrong method of driving them, the wrong pneumatic layout. Precise pneumatic control isn't too hard but it is a specialised skill set. We get really good control by using good, fast valves, mounting them close to the muscle, and driving them directly.
      • by gmueckl ( 950314 )
        Our setup was never designed for much more than simply on/off. We have no sensor feedback, either, so the controller can only act blindly. Also the system is pressurized only from a bottle of compressed air (a compressor would only add more weight). All in all this was designed to be small, lightweight, cheap and as simple as possible. Still, I think it works remarkably well.
        • Fair enough. We've got good results on sensor-less systems by tuning the opening time of the valves to give an accurate response, which may save you a valve or two.
  • It works like a normal animal-human muscle but moved by air inside.
    actually if it uses "fluidic muscle", the arm works more as a spider leg than a human arm...
    but it is cool anyway!
  • oooo bring on the puns :)
  • Who thinks of Erasmus when watching the video?

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