MIT's New Wearable Lends Users an Extra Hand


Robotic Symbionts is a different type of wearable. Instead of alerting you to text messages or telling the time, this high-tech wristband from MIT provides wearers with a third hand, Fast Co. Design reports.

The device was developed as a project for MIT's Fluid Interfaces research group. To use it, wearers strap the band below their wrist and move it by flexing the muscles in their forearm. Its 11 motors can be triggered to lend users a thumb, pinky, or a whole new hand. Getting a handle on the mechanics takes some practice, but after having it on for a few hours controlling the extra digits should feel like second nature.

Once users get the hang of it, a whole world of new possibilities opens up. Robotic Symbionts can be used to carry a bucket while your hands are full, hold extra-large objects, or turn a page while holding a book with the same hand. The robot appendages can also double as on-demand joysticks or supportive surfaces for jotting down notes.

The brain signal-detecting technology is similar to certain bionic prosthetics designed for people with missing limbs. Open Bionics, a prosthetics startup based in the UK, creates 3D-printed hands that amputees can open and close by moving their forearm muscles. But Sang-won Leigh, the PhD student behind Robotic Symbionts, has different intentions. He told Fast Co. Design that his invention was primarily designed to "turn people with normal physiology into superhumans." You can see the cyborg hand in action in the video above.

[h/t Fast Co. Design]

All images courtesy of MIT.