Bored MIT researchers invent Dr. Octopus prototype


Researchers at MIT have taken the first step towards manufacturing Marvel super-villain Dr. Octopus because that’s what bored geniuses do in their spare time.

Funded by Boeing, MIT aims to develop technology, called ‘Supernumerary Robotic Limbs’, that enhances and adds to the abilities humans get at birth. Designed by PhD candidates Federico Parietti and Baldin Llorens and Professor Harry Asada at MIT’s d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology, these revolutionary robotic arms respond on their own accord after observing the wearer’s movement.

Recently showcased at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong, these robotic arms are not controlled by the mind and do not take cues from direct physical input. Rather, they rely on algorithms that direct the robotic limbs to watch and assist the performance and direction of human arms. For example, if you lift your arms to hold up an object, the robotic limbs respond by providing immediate assistance. According to Parietti in an email to Science Alert staff, “The robot coordinates with the human user; it is not directly controlled by the user, but it is not completely autonomous either. My colleague, Baldin Llorens, developed an algorithm that uses the human’s hand and head motion as inputs. Once it gets these signals, the robot decides what to do based on previous training data recorded with two workers (a leader and a follower). Of course, the robot assumes the role of the follower.”

Constructed using lightweight material and positioned so that most of the weight transfers to your legs and hips, MIT’s robotic limbs offer several application possibilities in the fields of manufacturing, military, and construction.


About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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