Images: GM

Five years ago, researchers and scientists from General Motors and NASA began collaborating on a project called Robonaut 2 (R2 for short) that led to launching the first human-like robot into space in 2011 that is now a permanent resident in the International Space Station.

Now the two are jointly developing a robotic glove inspired by the unprecedented level of hand dexterity on R2 and they call it the Human Grasp Assist, a.k.a. K-glove, a.k.a. Robo-Glove.

“When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an auto worker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions,” said Dana Komin, GM’s manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution. “In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury.”

The first prototype of the glove was completed in March, 2011 with a second-gen model arriving just three months after that.

The current Robo-Glove weighs about two pounds and includes the control electronics, actuators (that are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers) and a small display for programming and diagnostics.

Power comes from an off-the-shelf LiON power tool battery with a belt clip. Engineers are nearing completion on the third generation prototype that will see components repackaged to reduce size and weight.

GM and NASA have submitted 46 patent applications for R2, including 21 for R2’s hand and four for the Robo-Glove alone.

“We are continuously looking for ways to improve safety and productivity on the shop floor,” Komin said. “Our goal is to bring this technology to the shop floor in the near future.”