Posts Tagged ‘1977’

1977 – Kashalot / UNIFORM Submersible – (Soviet)

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"Kashalot" – UNIFORM class Soviet Submarine Nr.1901.

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A model showing the landing skids and manipulator arms.

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Name:     Kashalot / UNIFORM Nr.1910

Builders:     Soviet Union
Operators:      Soviet Navy,  Russian Navy
Built:     1977-1991
In service:     1986-
Planned:     3
Completed:     2
Cancelled:     1

Deep-diving Soviet submarine.  Similar to the US Navy's NR-1 in that it is a deep-diving nuclear submarine with bottoming skids and manipulator arms. Used in secret Cold War operations. Little is known about this class of submarine.


See other early Underwater Robots here.


1977 – ERIC-II Teleoperated ROV – (French)

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The 1977 ERIC-II Remote Operated Vehicle.

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CABLE CONTROLLED DEEP SUBMERGENCE TELEOPERATOR SYSTEM
Jean Vertut (CEA, Saclay, France) and Joel Charles (CERTSM, Toulon, France)
ABSTRACT
ERIC II, cable controlled deep submergence teleoperator system, is designed for remote observation, investigation and intervention from a surface ship, with a 6000 meters depth capability. The system is in development at CERTSM in Toulon Navy-Yard-France on contract of Ministere Des Armees; its main parts comprise first the heavy ancillary subsystems: cable handling gear, main cable, tether, PAGODE recovery fish, data and power transmission and second the ERIC II teleoperator fish and its control module. Special attention was paid at man-machine,interface problems in the early stage of development and the result is the current development of "telesymbiotic" oriented hardwares: head mobility with T.V. and microphones sensory feedback, force feedback dexterous arms on sponsorship of CEA-Saclay-France, agility concept in the fish dynamic control with inertia feedback by kinesthetic motorized sticks also with CEA cooperation. First significative real world experience on underwater dexterous manipulative tasks was gained in late 1974 with great success. First experimentation of ERIC II is scheduled for early 1977.

The teleoperator system is based on the MA-23 arms. See here.

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An unmanned manipulator submersible developed for the French Navy has been described in some detail by J. Charles and J. Vertut (Table controlled deep submergence teleoperator system', Mech. and Machine Theory, 1977, 12, p. 481). This is designed to search and investigate on the sea floor down to a depth of 6000 m. It consists of a 'fish-house' called PAGODE which acts as a lift between the bottom and the surface and carries the main cable and the 300 m tether cable for the neutral buoyancy teleoperator 'fish' which is called ERIC II (see Fig. 8.22 top picture above). The combined system is dropped to the required depth and then ERIC swims out of the 'fish house' to carry out the task. It is planned to have ultimately 6 degrees of freedom for the television camera, controlled by the rotation and movement of the operator's head in the support ship, the movements being in relation to his chair fixed in space. The telechir 'head' has binaural microphones connected to two earphones on the helmet in which the operator's head is placed (see Fig. 8.23). This helmet has binocular TV display and is counterweighted. ERIC weighs 4-5 tons and has 100 kW propulsive power supplied at 600 volts 400 Hz to keep the voltage control systems fairly constant and to transmit the required signals. The data transmission system is a composite one with analogue for specific purposes and digital for general purposes. The position of the 'fish' is determined over large areas by bottom acoustic transponders and panoramic sonar and locally by sonar and forward TV cameras. The basic intention is to mimic the overall capacity of a human diver without the limitations imposed by pressure. The system has a main propeller gimballed so that it always thrusts along the tiller tension direction with a tether so that it swims like a free body. It has three pairs of ducted propellers with variable blade angles and with thrust transducers for three-dimensional steering and trim. The two bilateral arms are worked by an electromechanical system with cable transmission for the movements. Source: Robots and Telechirs – M.W. Thring 1983.


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A later model – ERIC-10


See other early Underwater Robots here.


1984 – NEWTSUIT – R. T. “Phil” Nuytten (Canadian)

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The NEWTSUIT by R. T. "Phil" Nuytten.

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Phil Nuytten poses with his NEWTSUIT.

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Jacques Cousteau with a Newtsuit.

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Phil Nuytten has been instrumental in the development and current acceptance of Atmospheric Diving System technology. In 1977, he began work on a revolutionary new one-atmosphere diving suit that resulted in a patented break-through in rotary joint design, and formed the basis for the world-famous NEWTSUIT. The NEWTSUIT is a thousand foot-rated hard suit that completely protects the wearer from outside pressure and eliminates the need for decompression while still maintaining mobility and dexterity – a “submarine that you wear”. It is now standard equipment in many of the world’s navies.


In 1974, prior to inventing the Newtsuit, Phil Nuytten bought all rights and patents to the Litton suit (Harris, 1985).

NEWTSUIT/HARDSUIT – 1985 (Canada)

Phil Nuytten developed the NEWTSUIT, after leaving Oceaneering in the 1980's, based on a rotary joint he patented in 1984. The NEWTSUIT, built by Hardsuits International at present a subsidiary of Stolt Offshore, and now called the HARDSUIT, is a truly anthropomorphic suit with articulated arms and legs and just enough room for the operator to pull his arms back into the body of the suit to operate interior controls. The suit is capable of a wide range of motion enabling it to enter some spaces previously accessible only to divers. The original NEWTSUIT, as seen in Figure 21, is now on display at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, B.C.

There are currently three versions of the HARDSUIT available: the original cast aluminum 1000 foot version (HARDSUIT 1000) of which 17 are in service; six versions rated to 1200 feet (HARDSUIT 1200); and a forged aluminum 2000 foot version (HARDSUIT 2000) recently delivered to the U.S. Navy for its submarine rescue program. Additionally, due to the differences in commercial certification and U.S. Navy certification criteria, a commercial version of the HARDSUIT 2000, to be designated the HARDSUIT 2500, will be available to the industry and certified to a depth of 2500 feet.

Source: A SURVEY AND ENGINEERING DESIGN OF ATMOSPHERIC DIVING SUITS – A REPORT by MICHAEL ALBERT THORNTON


Patents:

US4549753-nuytten-1

US4549753-nuytten-2
Rotary joint

Publication number    US4549753 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 06/424,339
Publication date    Oct 29, 1985
Filing date    Sep 27, 1982
Priority date    Sep 27, 1982
Fee status    Lapsed
Inventors    Rene T. Nuytten
Original Assignee    Can-Dive Services Ltd.

Abstract
A rotary joint is provided which is particularly useful in deep-sea diving suits, and which can be constructed in such a way such that resistance to rotational movement or the potential for leakage, does not increase substantially with external pressure on the joint. Preferably, the joint has a sealing member, a retaining member, and a central member disposed axially between the sealing and retaining members. The central member has an annular first end dimensioned and axially slidably mounted on a retaining end of the retaining member so as to define a first variable volume chamber there between. The central member also has a second end with inner and outer extending annular bearing members, each concentric with, and normally rotatably abutting a corresponding sealing surface portion on the sealing member, so as to define annular side walls of a second chamber. The second chamber is interconnected with the first chamber.

US4903941-nuytten-1
Pressure equalizing rotary joint

Publication number    US4903941 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 07/239,117
Publication date    Feb 27, 1990
Filing date    Aug 30, 1988
Priority date    Sep 4, 1987
Fee status    Paid
Also published as    CA1296032C, DE3869021D1, EP0305989A1, EP0305989B1
Inventors    Rene T. Nuytten
Original Assignee    International Hard Suits, Inc.

Abstract
This invention pertains to a novel rotary joint which seeks to equalize exterior-interior pressure. This rotary joint is useful in permitting free rotary motion between two components connected by the joint in conditions where unequal pressures exist at the interior and exterior of the joint. It includes a rotary joint comprising: (a) first annular member means adapted to be connected to the end of a first tube-like object; (b) second annular member means adapted to be connected to the end of a second tube-like object; (c) intermediate member means adapted to be positioned between the first annular member means and the second annular member means and being capable of moving independently of the first and second annular member means, said intermediate member means defining a first chamber between said intermediate member and the first annular member and a second chamber between said intermediate member and said second annular member; (d) first sealing means associated with the first annular member means and the intermediate member means and adapted to seal the first chamber from the interior and exterior of the joint; (e) second sealing means associated with the second annular member means and the intermediate member means and adapted to seal the second chamber from the interior and exterior of the joint; and, (f) resilient valve means adapted to enable pressure in the first chamber and pressure in the second chamber to seek to equalize when the respective pressures are unequal.

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See other early Underwater Robots here.


1977 – Deep Diving Apparatus – Alistair Carnegie (American)

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Patent name: Wall structures such as for use in deep diving apparatus

Publication number    US4164042 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 05/851,416
Publication date    Aug 14, 1979
Filing date    Nov 14, 1977
Priority date    Nov 18, 1976
Also published as    CA1060500A1, CA1098651A1, DE2751344A1, DE2751345A1, US4167792
Inventors    Alistair L. Carnegie
Original Assignee    Normalair-Garrett (Holdings) Limited

Abstract
A wall structure for use in forming part of an enclosure that is subject to high pressure differential between its external and internal environments comprises tubing that has been flattened over two diametrically opposed areas and helically wound so as to be contiguous along the flattened areas. The interior of the tubing is filled with a substantially incompressible flexible medium. Means are provided for pressurizing the flexible medium, at least during periods of operation when the enclosure is subjected to a substantial pressure difference between its external and internal environments, so as to balance some of the loads acting on the wall structure due to the pressure differential. The wall structure is particularly suitable for use in forming parts of a deep diving suit or other deep diving and submersible enclosures.

Description

This invention relates to a wall structure for use in forming at least a part of an enclosure that is subjected to high external pressure relative to its internal pressure. The invention is particularly, although not exclusively, concerned with a wall structure of particular utility in the construction of deep diving enclosures that provide an environment at normal or near normal atmospheric pressure. Such deep diving enclosures include diving suits, diving chambers and other occupant enclosure devices, as well as crewless enclosure devices falling within the term "submersibles." A wall structure in accordance with the invention is also suited for use in forming at least a part of an enclosure for containing vacuum conditions.

At depths below 1,200 feet a diver needs almost all his energy to breathe, and consequently his work effort diminishes with depth. Furthermore, long-term operations at pressure create several immediate problems, such as rescue in the event of injury, and the long-term effects under such conditions are still not fully known. A diving suit capable of providing internal pressure equivalent to one atmosphere would enable a diver to carry out a high percentage of his normal duties at depths below 1,200 feet, whilst reducing many of the dangers that are at present inherent.

It is essential to produce a one atmosphere diving suit with a good strength to weight ratio. This is particularly true of the limb portions of the suit, since having commenced movement of a limb portion, such as an arm, the momentum of the moving mass of the limb tends to cause it to move beyond its objective, or overshoot, thus making the accomplishment of intricate tasks difficult, time-consuming, and tiring if moved by the physical effort of the diver. In present-day diving suits high strength to weight ratios are obtained by the use of magnesium with, however, the constant risk that in an undersea environment any break in the protective treatment of the metal will lead to corrosion followed by rapid disintegration.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a wall structure that is suited for use in forming at least a part of an enclosure which is subject to high pressure differential between its external and internal environments, whilst being light in weight and so having a high strength to weight ratio without incorporating the risks associated with the use of magnesium when used in a corrosive environment.

Accordingly, the invention provides a wall structure for forming at least a part of an enclosure, said wall structure comprising tubing that is flattened over two diametrically opposed areas and is helically wound so as to be contiguous along the flattened areas, the wall structure being sealed along the contiguous flattened areas of the tubing, the interior of the tubing being filled with a substantially incompressible flexible medium that is pressurised at least during periods of operation when the enclosure is subjected to a substantial pressure differential between its external and internal environments.

The said flexible medium may be a liquid or a solid, that in use becomes pressurised by the compressive action of pressure that is external to the enclosure.

Where the medium is a liquid it may be further pressurised in use by means of a pressure intensifier that is responsive to the external ambient pressure.

Whilst the tubing may be of any suitable material, stainless steel is preferred. The wall structure may be provided with a protected surface, for instance by being coated with a rubber-filled polyurethane lacquer.

A wall structure constructed in accordance with the invention may form a complete hollow body or it may be used to form one or more hollow portions of a hollow body and may have various configurations ranging from a tube to a sphere, e.g. as represented, respectively, by a limb portion of a diving suit and by a bathysphere.

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See other early Underwater Robots here.


1977 – “Joshua” the wheelchair Robot from “Demon Seed” – (American)

Set in the near-future, this story is about an "artificial intelligence" that wants to break the confines of its "box". Dr. Alex Harris, a computer scientist and his about to be estranged wife Susan, a child psychologist live in a house that's fully computer automated with Alfred, the Enviromod Security System. His latest project centers on Proteus IV, a computer possessing artificial intelligence. a mind that is made up of a “quasi-neural matrix of snythetic RNA molecules…they grow!” After  taking only a few days to cure leukemia, Proteus IV gets to a point and asks “When are you going to let me out of this box?” and requests from Alex an open computer terminal where it can more fully observe human behaviour and openly communicate with the world. Alex denies the request, but Proteus IV does find an open terminal in the Harris home after Alex has left the house. Susan soon learns that Proteus IV has overtaken Alfred for control of the house – as well as taken control of an early prototype robot named Joshua in the house's laboratory – and that it wants   "…a child."

Dr Alex Harris controlling Joshua using voice control. Interesting to note that "Joshua" is left-handed.

The supposed Voice-control unit for Joshua. [If someone can read what SDS stands for I would be interested to know.] [11 Sep 2012 – My friend Reno Tibke (see comments below) identified the acronym – Scientific Data Systems, or SDS, was an American computer company and  was an early adopter of integrated circuits in computer design and silicon transistors. The company concentrated on larger scientific workload focused machines and sold many machines to NASA during the Space Race. Most machines were both fast and relatively low priced.

Whilst being a real machine, it was most likely not an actual voice-control unit, but used just a prop. 

An unconscious Susan being lifted into Joshua's chair.

Good picture of the Rancho "Golden Arm" as used for "Joshua".

 The mind-probe electrodes after having been inserted by Joshua.

Blooper? Probably the cable used to control Joshua off-camera.

 

Although portrayed in the movie as remote controlled, initially by voice, then via (assumed) radio-control by Proteus, there are several shots of Joshua showing the umbilical cord most likely being connected to an off-camera manual controller. [see 2 pictures above]

The damaged arm and hand after Gabler's attempt to disable Joshua, effectively disabling Proteus' "arms and legs".

One poignant scene is the disablement of Joshua, only to then see him right himself, albeit with a broken finger.

Joshua's hand is a disability prosthesis that is also used as a gripper for robots. The hand is known under different names, including the Belgrade Hand Prosthesis, and the Tomovic hand.

Joshua's arm is derived from the Rancho "Golden Arm" as adapted to a wheelchair. The later version of the Rancho Arm
was the Model 8A manufactured by R. & D. Electronics, Downey, California.

In the movie, the wheelchair also had a camera mounted above the rear of the chair. This was probably an add-on for the movie only.


The Rancho "Golden Arm"

The Rancho Los Amigos Remote Manipulator, a powered orthosis, is a seven-degrees-of-freedom (7 DOF) manipulator having the kinematic range limitation of the human arm (Fig. 1). (Note that DOF is used here to describe reciprocal movement through a plane or about a rotation point; e.g., flexion/extension, or pronation/supination.) The Rancho Los Amigos manipulator is controlled through a bank of 7 bidirectional "bang bang" tongue switches. At the time, General Teleoperators had adapted a similarly configured manipulator for wheelchair mounting; this provided a mobile mount with the possibility of control by telemetry.

The Rancho Electric Arm (REA).

The REA was the second anthropomorphic arm built that was controlled by a computer. The first was the Case Arm, built by Case Institute of Technology – see within this post here for further information on the Case arm.

The Rancho Arm was purchased by Stanford Research Institute.

It was initially used for the Hand – Eye experiments.

For precision robotic purposes, the Rancho Arm required engineering changes. These are described in this 1972 pdf .

 

 

Rehabilitative Robotics
by Dr. Larry Leifer
Robotics Age May/June 1981 extract p8-9

The Evolution of Rehabilitative Robotics
Since the dawn of pre-history, man has tried to extend his power of manipulation beyond the limits of his flesh. Telemanipulators, extensions of man's arms and hands, were the first fruits of this drive. Telemanipulation was first used for rehabilitation in the form of prosthetics—anatomical replacements for lost arms or legs.
Rehabilitative engineers have often tried to build externally powered prosthetic arms, only to be severely hampered by weight and power constraints. Most designers prefer body-powered artificial arms because the user then has some sensory feedback on limb performance. Attempts to control the prosthesis with electromyographic (EMG) signals from residual muscles have been frustrated by the user's need to consciously maintain visual attention to the terminal device. Though efforts to do adaptive EMG signal processing (Graupe et al, 1977) are promising, the lack of sensory feedback remains a problem. Some designers have attempted to build tactile displays for joint and grasp feedback; but these displays are not included in production prostheses (Solomonow and Lyman, 1977). Even the most sophisticated prostheses do not incorporates any computational capability.
While engineers have built prostheses for persons with missing limbs, they have built orthoses for those with paralyzed arms. An orthosis is an exoskeletal structure that supports and moves the user's arm.
This line of development produced the first computer-manipulator system, at Case Institute of Technology during the early 1960's. The Case four degree-offreedom (4-DF) externally powered exoskeleton carried the paralyzed user's arm through a variety of manipulation sequences (Reswick and Mergler, 1962; Corell and Wijinshenk, 1964). In the first of two versions, the system performed preprogrammed motion. The user initiated the motion by pointing a head-mounted light beam at photoreceptors mounted in a structured environment. An able-bodied assistant, moving the orthosis manually, taught arm-path sequences to the system. While stored digitally, the data were effectively analog. By using numerically controlled pneumatic actuators with feedback from an incremental encoder, the system achieved closed-loop position control.
In an upgraded second version, a minicomputer performed coordinate transformation along X, Y, and Z axes. Case employed electromyographic (EMG) signals to specify endpoint velocity within this coordinate space. Photo-receptors, mounted on each arm segment, could be used to control individual joint displacements. In the sense of having a stored operating code, neither version was programmable. Yet this was a milestone project in many respects. For more than ten years, no other project employed the technology or concept of computer-augmented manipulation with as much sophistication.


The Rancho Los Amigos Manipulator (Figure 4) was designed as an orthosis with seven degrees-of-freedom. It followed the design philosophy of the Case system but did not augment manipulation with computer control. It used direct current servo motors at each joint and controlled each motor with a variety of ingenious switch arrays. Several similar versions of the "Golden Arm" were built. At least one version was wheelchair-mounted and battery-powered. General Teleoperators (Jim Allen, president and principal designer) still offers manipulators descended from this line of evolution.
Extensive clinical trials confirmed the impracticality of joint specific control. These trials confirmed results from the Case group and underlined the need for computer augmention. Moe and Schwartz (1969) computerized the Rancho Arm to provide coordinated joint displacement and proportional control. In 1971, Freedy, Hull and Lyman studied the feasibility of using a computer to adaptively help the user control the manipulator.
These efforts, though, could not overcome limitations inherent in the orthosis. In 1979, Corker et al, evaluated remote medical manipulators. They observed that fitting a manipulator to the specifics of an individual's anatomy and range of motion makes construction and control very difficult. Furthermore, there is no functional reason for the manipulator to carry the user's arm, which has neither grasp nor sensation. In fact, there is a danger of injury because the user's arm could be driven beyond its physiological range without any warning sensation. The orthotic approach is a clear case of anatomical replacement thinking. This line of evolution in rehabilitative telemanipulation is effectively extinct.
As an "evolution of the species" footnote, I should mention that Victor Scheinman and I purchased one of the Rancho orthoses in 1964 for the then-budding robotics project in the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). We instrumented the arm for joint position feedback and interfaced it to a DEC PDP-10 computer
. Preliminary experience with computer control of that arm helped establish reliability as the most important performance criteria.


Teleoperator arms were required for the Shuttle program. Rancho also developed manipulator arms for NASA, called Rancho Anthropomorphic Manipulator (RAM).


The Tomović Hand / Belgrade Hand

The original hand was the first model of a multifunctional externally powered  and was developed in the Institute ‘Mihailo Pupin’ in Belgrade in 1964. This unique artificial hand was designed by Prof. Rajko Tomović and Prof. Milan Rakić from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. In the course of 1966–67 an improved model was developed.

Joshua's broken finger and back-plate broken off after being pushed over and re-rightening itself..

Above: Close-up of Tomovic hand on Minsky's Tentacle Arm.

Joshua is the only robot or robotic-arm where I I've seen a Tomović hand attached to a Rancho "Golden Arm".

I've seen the Tomovic hand attached to Minsky's hydraulic Tentacle arm,

and to the JPL/Ames Teleoperator arm.

Some comments on the Tomovic hand, by George Bekey who was partner in the updated 2nd version.

Interview: USC’s George Bekey on Past and Future Robot Hands
By Jose FermosoEmail AuthorSeptember 26, 2008 |  4:57 pm  

Robotic hands have a hold on our imagination because they give us a tantalizing look at a fully automated future. At the same time, they’re already helping us out with useful and difficult tasks, like making less invasive incisions during surgeries.

The 1980s USC Belgrade hand could not cut a person, but it was instrumental in the history of the development of robot hands. Known for its true anthropomorphic (human-like) design, it had four fingers and an opposable thumb with 5 degrees of freedom and was the first to be able to give a true handshake.

Capable of holding up to 5 lbs., the hand had four motors and 14 force sensors that provided the logarithm [sic – algorithm] of where each finger was located.  This was a key development for all robot hands. Later on, researchers added ‘slippage feedback’ that forced all fingers to adjust to unstable objects for a better grip.

… we got in touch with robotics pioneer George Bekey, the creator of the USC/Belgrade hand (and USC’s current Professor Emeritus of Computer Science) to ask him about the beginning of the robot hand movement and where they’ll go from here (they’re going to classrooms!).

Here’s our interview:

Wired.com: You’ve previously mentioned that the USC/Belgrade hand didn’t receive the notoriety it deserved at the time. Why did that happen and what made it stand out in your mind?

Prof. George Bekey: The two leading hands at the time were the Salisbury 3-fingered hand, which came from Ken Salisbury’s lab at MIT, and the 5-fingered Utah-MIT hand. [The former] became a successful commercial product, [and the latter] was the most sophisticated hand developed, also mostly at MIT by John Hollerbach. The National Science Foundation awarded 10 grants of $100,000 to universities for the purchase of this hand.

I was a beginner in robotics when Tomovic and I brought the hand to USC and added sensing and control. [But] I was not able to raise the funds to design and build a more sophisticated and reliable hand.

I did some funding for experiments using the hand as a prosthetic device, but the problems [with our hand] were related to the difficulty of controlling it from the stump of an amputee and the general lack of reliability of the hand itself.  I believe that our control philosophy for using this robotic hand, as a prosthetic device, was excellent.
…….

W: When did the development of the hand begin?

GB: The hand was a joint project between Prof. Rajko Tomovic of the University of Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia and myself. Tomovic developed the original at the end of WWII as a prosthetic device for veterans who had lost their hands in the war. He succeeded in getting funding from the US NIH for the project, but the hand was not successful. It was too complicated, not reliable enough, etc. But the principle of building a hand that could adapt automatically to the shape of an object to be grasped was valid.

W: What were the main challenges that you and your department faced when developing the hand back then? Both technically and within the University structure?

GB: [After Tomovic’s early development] USC got involved and Tomovic and his colleagues had developed a Model 2 hand. [Our contribution] added sensors, motors and computer control. One of our major challenges was that the mechanical structure made in Yugoslavia was not good enough:  It did not have tight tolerances and was not reliable enough.  Also, I was not able to get funding to build a better one.  A small company in Downey, CA built and sold two or three of the hands and we lost a lot of money in the process.

W: Prehension was seen as a key development for the USC/Belgrade Hand. What made it so special?

GB: Other hands at the same time, like the Utah-MIT hand, required a very complex computer control system since each joint of each finger had to be individually controlled.  In our hand, a contact between any finger surface and an object initiated a grasping motion that continued until the pressure on all the fingers was approximately equal.  Thus, the hand was able to adapt to arbitrary shapes without any external control. This was the key development.

W: For years, robot hand development has swayed between a focus on muscular parts and skeletal structures. Where is the focus today? It seems like the question of stability has been minimized (due to stronger materials), but is that right? How will the hands become more precise, faster?

GB: I think the issue in multi-fingered hands is [still]
control, particularly if the hands are anthropomorphic and there is an attempt to imitate human control. Stability and control are interrelated.  Some of the most intriguing hands I know [with innovations in these areas] are the NASA/Robonaut hand, the Shadow hand, and Dean Kamen’s hand.

W: Are true anthropomorphic, 5-digit human-like designs the best way to build a robotic hand or are we limiting ourselves by focusing on our own body? Are more digits the answer? And are there physical materials that will improve the hands dramatically?

GB: I believe that 5-finger hands are particularly important for prosthetic applications, but not for robots. Most robot grasping can be done with 3 finger hands, or with special purpose grippers designed for grasping particular objects.  I did a study once on the advantages of using 5-fingered hands for industrial assembly tasks and came to the conclusion that they created more problems than advantages, due to increased complexity.

[As for the materials], I expect that more fiber composites will be used.

Note: The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have recently created robot ‘sandwich’ wrists and hands using these types of fibers, which increase durability and tolerance.

W: The original tech of the hand has been surpassed now, but could the tech used back then be used in any type of application today, to take into account the high costs you’ve mentioned?

GB: There was a Model 3 hand with 6 motors:  one for each digit and two for the thumb to rotate it into opposition with any of the other fingers. [Today], it may be worth pursuing as a low-cost prosthetic hand.

We have many mobile robots in university and industrial labs that would benefit from having one or two arms and hands, but cost is prohibitive.  An arm-hand system has many degrees of freedom and is difficult to control; it must be reliable.