robotics automation and control
Robo-Glove (MSC-TOPS-37)
Wearable technology that reduces the force needed to operate tools
Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in collaboration with General Motors (GM) have designed and developed Robo-Glove, a wearable human grasp assist device, to help reduce the grasping force needed by an individual to operate tools for an extended time or when performing tasks having repetitive motion. Robo-Glove has the potential to help workers, such as construction workers, hazardous material workers, or assembly line operators, whose job requires continuous grasping and ungrasping motion. The Robo-Glove also has potential applications in prosthetic devices, rehabilitation aids, and people with impaired or limited arm and hand muscle strength. This NASA Technology is available for your company to license and develop into a commercial product. NASA does not manufacture products for commercial sale.

The Technology
Originally developed by NASA and GM, the Robo-Glove technology was a spinoff of the Robonaut 2 (R2), the first humanoid robot in space. This wearable device allows the user to tightly grip tools and other items for longer periods of time without experiencing muscle discomfort or strain. An astronaut working in a pressurized suit outside the space station or an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15 to 20 lbs of force to hold a tool during an operation. Use of the Robo-Glove, however, would potentially reduce the applied force to only 5 to 10 lbs. The Robo-Glove is a self-contained unit, essentially a robot on your hand, with actuators embedded into the glove that provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors, similar to the sensors that give R2 its sense of touch, are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to detect when the user is grasping an object. When the user grasps the object, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released by releasing the object. The current prototype weighs around two pounds, including control electronics and a small display for programming and diagnostics. A lithium-ion battery, such as one for power tools, is used to power the system and is worn separately on the belt.
This technology is directed to the field of wearable robotics, where a machine's strength and a human's ability to see, feel, and think are combined to develop a more robust system than if each operates separately.
  • Wearable assist technology: a lightweight robotic glove that fits on your hand
  • Small and compact design
  • Human-safe robotics: pressure sensors give a sense of touch or haptic feedback
  • Self-contained glove: actuators, pressure sensors, and synthetic tendons are embedded
  • Ergonomic - the system helps reduce muscle strain from repetitive motion tasks

  • Construction
  • Hazardous material handling
  • Medical
  • Automotive Repair
  • Manufacturing
  • Repetitive motion work
  • Oil and gas exploration
Technology Details

robotics automation and control
MSC-24741-1 MSC-25318-1 MSC-25319-1 MSC-25320-1 MSC-25783-1
Similar Results
Image of the SpaceSuit Roboglove Prototype
Space Suit RoboGlove (SSRG)
NASA is currently developing the next generation space suit for future missions, including the optimization of space suit gloves. When non-assisted space suit gloves are coupled to a pressurized suit and operated in a vacuum, they tend to limit the range of motion of an astronaut's hand to as little as 20% of normal range. Many of NASA's future missions will be in challenging environments where an astronauts hand dexterity will be critical for the success of NASA missions. Innovators at JSC have improved the performance on the second-generation, robotically assisted SSRG, to reduce exertion and improve the hand strength and dexterity of an astronaut in situ. The SSRGs system detects user finger movements using string potentiometers and contact with objects using force-sensitive resistors (FSRs). FSRs are imbedded in the distal and medial phalanges, palmar side of the glove. To move a finger, an actuator pulls a tendon through a Bowden Cable system which transfers mechanical pulling force of an inner cable relative to a hollow outer cable, like the brakes on a bicycle, as seen in the Figure below. An improved controller commands the new, more powerful linear actuator to drive tendon operation while minding custom controller parameters inputted through a digital editor tool. The Space Suit RoboGlove is at TRL 6 (system/subsystem model or prototype demonstrated in a relevant environment) and it is now available for licensing. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.
Upper Body Robotic Exoskeleton
NASA's soft, portable, wearable robotic device is "plug and play" - it includes all necessary electronics, actuation, software, and sensors required to achieve augmented limb movement. The garment is designed such that the human-robot interface distributes load across the torso, maximizing user comfort. Donning and doffing is simple, as the device lowers over the head, straps to the torso via Velcro, and possesses adjustable custom arm cuffs. Actuators are housed in the back of the garment, which pull custom conduit-tendon-based systems attached to the limb at optimized locations, causing the joint of interest to move to the specified orientation. Force sensing is employed to enable optimal control of the limb, measuring user-applied force to maintain commanded joint orientations. Integrated electronics and software provide power distribution, safety monitoring, data transfer and data logging. NASA's garment has multiple modes of operation. In active assist mode, shoulder abduction and flexion, and elbow flexion, may be commanded either simultaneously via coordinated control or individually while holding position/orientation of the other joints. In passive assist mode, the user can freely move the limb while the system provides minimal torque to the shoulder and elbow. The upper body robotic exoskeleton is at a TRL 6 (system/subsystem prototype demonstration in a relevant environment) and it is now available for your company to license and develop into a commercial product. Please note that NASA does not manufacture products itself for commercial sale.
Advanced Robotic Sensing Technologies
Visual Perception System: Key to enabling humanoid robotics to perform dexterous tasks, R2s visual perception system (U.S. Patent No. 8,244,402) comprised of machine vision cameras, processors, and novel algorithms allows robots to find, track, and measure objects automatically in their field of view. Tendon Tension Sensor: Unique tendon tensions sensors (U.S. Patent Nos. 8,371,177 & 8,056,423) are embedded in R2s palms to enable granular force control of the fingers via a redundant network of tendons. R2s tendons are coupled to, and used to actuate, the robots finger joints. Thus, tendon tension measurements provided by the sensor allow for the external loads experienced by its robotic fingers to be derived. Tactile System: R2s hands feature an innovative tactile system that grant the robot a sense of touch (e.g., measurement of external contact forces, shear force, and slippage of objects held in the hand) an important requirement for robots designed to perform complex tasks in an automated fashion. The tactile system is enabled by novel six degree of freedom (DoF) force torque sensors (U.S. Patent No. 7,784,363), which are integrated into the fingers at each phalange (14 per hand). A calibration system (U.S. Patent No. 8,265,792) ensures the sensors maintain high accuracy throughout operation. Contact State Estimation: A contact state estimation sensor (U.S. Patent No. 8,280,837), based on the use of a particle filter, enables R2 to perceive the location, orientation, and shape of objects when in contact with the robots hands (i.e., tracks hand-object state). The contact state estimation system leverages a novel motion model, which characterizes the motion of a robotic hand as it moves relative to an object of interest. Series Elastic Actuator (SEA) Sensing: R2s SEAs achieve fine torque sensing at each of its joints without sacrificing strength or payload capacity. The robot uses two 19-bit absolute angular position sensors, calibrated using a novel technique (U.S. Patent No. 8,250,901), to measure the deflection of each spring in real time.
Advanced Humanoid Robotic Interface & Control
Technologies for Safe Workspace Control of Humanoid Robots: Safety is critical in scenarios where humans (e.g., factory workers or astronauts) are working in proximity to, or interacting with, R2. Methods for applying workspace limitations in velocity-controlled robotic mechanisms (U.S. Patent No. 8,676,382) and force or impedance-controlled robots (U.S. Patent No. 8,483,877) help to ensure such safety. Autonomous Control Systems for Humanoid Robotics: A multiple priority operation space impedance control system (U.S. Patent No. 8,170,718) provides arm control, including programmable Cartesian stiffness. An interactive robot control architecture (U.S. Patent Nos. 8,364,314, and 8,260,460, and 8,706,299), including a simple GUI, provides an interactive development and work environment that integrates sensor data and feedback generated by R2. An additional system selects and controls appropriate manipulators to perform grasping operations (U.S. Patent No. 8,483,882). Humanoid Robotic Health Management System: A diagnostics, prognostics, and health management system for human robotics (U.S. Patent No. 8,369,992) operates at all hardware and software levels of the robotic system, enabling system-wide observability, controllability, maintainability, scalability, and extensibility. Electromagnetic Motor Braking: Electromagnetic fail-safe brakes (U.S. Patent No. 8,067,909) allow for selective, reliable braking of robotic motors (e.g., brushless DC motors) to ensure safe and effective operation. Highly Durable Connector Pin: To address the high failure rate of connectors in robotic systems with flexible members, a highly durable connector pin (U.S. Patent No. 8,033,876) was developed. The pin increases durability of connectors that are frequently flexed a condition that causes deformation and compromises connectivity.
Robonaut 2 is a dexterous robot able to work with tools and equipment designed for human use.
Robonaut 2: Industrial Opportunities
NASA, GM, and Oceaneering approached the development of R2 from a dual use environment for both space and terrestrial application. NASA needed an astronaut assistant able to function in space and GM was looking for a robot that could function in an industrial setting. With this in mind, R2 was made with many capabilities that offer an enormous advantage in industrial environments. For example, the robot has the ability to retool and vary its tasks. Rather than a product moving from station to station on a conveyor with dozens of specialized robots performing unique tasks, R2 can handle several assembly steps at a single station, thereby reducing manufacturing floor space requirements and the need for multiple robots for the same activities. The robot can also be used in scenarios where dangerous chemicals, biological, or even nuclear materials are part of the manufacturing process. R2 uses stereovision to locate human teammates or tools and a navigation system. The robot was also designed with special torsional springs and position feedback to control fine motor movements in the hands and arms. R2's hands and arms sense weight and pressure and stop when they come in contact with someone or something. These force sensing capabilities make R2 safe to work side-by-side with people on an assembly line, assisting them in ergonomically challenging tasks or working independently. This NASA Technology is available for your company to license and develop into a commercial product. NASA does not manufacture products for commercial sale.
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