GM's RoboGlove Tackles Worker Fatigue

By Stephanie Mlot Features PCmag

Marty Linn, General Motors manager of advanced technology and principal engineer for robotics, shakes hands with Robonaut 2 (R2), a humanoid robot developed by GM and NASA during a nine-year collaboration that also led to development of the RoboGlove,... an exo-muscular device that enhances strength and grip through leading-edge sensors, actuators and tendons that are comparable to the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand. GM is licensing the RoboGlove intellectual property to Bioservo Technologies AB, a Swedish medical technologies company that will combine RoboGlove with its owner patented SEM glove technology.

One of the benefits of using robots on a production line is that they never tire; they can build products for hours without needing a bathroom or lunch break—or a paycheck. But they can't do everything, and that's where the "RoboGlove" comes in.

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RoboGlove was developed by General Motors and NASA for use on the International Space Station, but you might soon see it on factory floors. GM has licensed RoboGlove tech to Swedish med-tech company Bioservo Technologies AB, which wants to use the device in industrial settings. Ideally, this will boost worker output while reducing fatigue in hand muscles.

"The successor to RoboGlove can reduce the amount of force that a worker needs to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions," Kurt Wiese, VP of GM Global Manufacturing Engineering, said in a statement.

GM said it briefly used an original RoboGlove in one of its plants, but wanted "a partner to help refine it to fit different size hands and address other issues." With Bioservo's help, GM wants to be the first US manufacturing customer to use the updated glove.

Bioservo will also make and sell the new glove for various uses, including medical rehabilitation, and, really, any situation where additional gripping strength is necessary.

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"Combining the best of three worlds—space technology from NASA, engineering from GM, and medtech from Bioservo—in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial-scale use of the technology," said Bioservo CEO Tomas Ward.

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