By Jakob Brodersen

Photo: Jakob Brodersen

Now, a new invention can make it even easier to use exoskeletons and to control them very accurately. In a few years, exo-skeletons will be much more common than they are today. The external clamping skeletons provide support and strength to lift, carry and move around by supporting the body’s natural movements with electric motors.

The invention is called the Human Intention Detection Sensor and was invented by Associate Professor Shaoping Bai and Scientific Assistant Muhammad Raza Ul Islam from Aalborg University (AAU). Using a bracelet with pressure sensing sensors (FSR: Force Sensing Resistor), which tightens the forearm, the system, based on muscle movements, can read how to move the arm, hand and fingers accurately and act accordingly.

– You only have to move a muscle a little, then the system responds and performs a movement. For example, if you have to lift something while wearing the exoskeleton, the Human Intention Detection Sensor can also record how heavy the object is and add an appropriate energy to perform the lift, says Shaoping Bai from AAU.

A WEALTH OF APPLICATIONS

In AAU’s robot laboratory, Shaoping Bai helps Muhammad Raza to clamp the sensor band around the arm for a demonstration. The sensors should sit on the muscle just below the elbow, where it is easiest to read the muscles’ impulses if you bend your hand from one side to the other or if you move your fingers.

To demonstrate how it works, the two researchers have linked their invention to a remote-controlled LEGO wheel on wheels. When Muhammad Raza has calibrated the sensors, the robot responds by driving forward as he points down with a flat hand and turning to the sides as he flips his hand to the right or left. When he joins the board, the robot immediately stops on the small table.

– This technology can be used for much more than exo skeletons. It’s a whole new way to interact with robots. Imagine controlling a large hydraulic crane with this kind of technology. Instead of the crane operator having to sit in his small wheelhouse high up in the air and pulling on the handle and pressing the contacts, one can control the crane exactly by means of hand movements in the empty air. Or think how to control a computer game with this kind of control, says Shaoping Bai.

POINT TO THE FUTURE

The two inventors, together with Professor Ole Madsen and the former AAU alumni Charles Xing, have set up the company BIOX ApS. Here they will try to get the invention out on the commercial market.

– There is already great interest from private investors who can see the potential of controlling robots using hand movements. If investments are to continue at the same pace as now, I think we can already have the first prototypes ready within a year, says Shaoping Bai.


The technology was developed with support from the Innovation Fund and AAU. BIOX has made an exclusive agreement with AAU for further commercialization of the invention.


Watch video with Shaoping Bai and Muhammad Raza Ul Islam, who manages a LEGO robot using hand gestures with Human Intention Detection Sensor in AAU Robot Lab

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