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VR-Controlled Robot Limbs Could Open Up Now Possibilities for Remote Working

An assistant professor at a Tokyo university has developed a robotic limb system which is controlled remotely from VR.

It has already been demonstrated how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can help when workers need assistance performing an unfamiliar procedure. An assistant professor at Tokyo’s Keio University is taking this idea step further with his ‘Fusion’ project.

Fusion consists of two main elements, one of which is a pair of robotic arms on a backpack, the other is a VR system connected to a camera also mounted on the backpack, which lets a user remotely operate the arms.

As reported by MIT Technology Review, the project is the work of Yamen Saraiji, who developed it in order to explore how people could work together to control or augmented one person’s body. Though the device is currently in a fairly early prototype stage, Saraiji believes that it might someday be useful for areas such as physical therapy or remote instruction.

The robotic arms have seven joints and are connected to a backpack PC which wirelessly streams data between the robotic arm system and the person controlling the limbs in VR. The PC is also connected to a microcontroller, which determines how to position the robotic arms and hands and how much torque to apply.

The attached camera is actually a pair of cameras which shows a live feed of everything that the backpack wearer is seeing. The camera is synced with the VR system, so when the operator moves their head, the camera will move as well. The rig is powered by a battery which last for roughly and hour. The entire backpack rig weighs in at a hefty 21 pounds.

The VR operator can control the limbs by using different buttons on the Oculus Touch controllers, with the buttons corresponding to different finger motions, which means that the present system can be a little tricky to operate for those unfamiliar with it.

Saraiji is hoping that the Fusion project can eventually be turned into a commercial product, and is in the process of pitching the device to a Tokyo-based start-up accelerator. For future coverage on new and innovative VR products, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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