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Image credit: University of Tokyo

Adding a second pair of arms is as easy as putting on a backpack

These robotic limbs look like a multitasker's dream.
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University of Tokyo

There's only so much you can do with two arms and hands. That's basic science. But what if you could add extras without the need for ethically shady surgery or trading your apartment for a hovel in the shadow of a nuclear power plant? That's what researchers from Keio University and the University of Tokyo hope to achieve with their "Metalimbs" project. As the name suggests, Metalimbs are a pair of metal, robotic arms that doubles the amount of torso-extremities and worn with a backpack of sorts. And unlike thought-powered prosthetics we've seen recently, these are controlled not with your brain, but your existing limbs. Specifically, your legs and feet.

Raise your left leg and the left arm moves in kind; curl your toes and the robot hand will make a fist. And to give feedback for how everything is working, feet-worn haptic motors will buzz and whir so you can feel what your new limbs are doing. The tech was designed to be used while seated, but as you'll see in the video below, it works while standing too. More than that, the hands can be exchanged for other attachments, like, say, a soldering iron. While this could be a boon for multitaskers, the real beneficiaries of these could be amputees.

The tech will be shown off at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles as part of the Emerging Technologies showcase beginning July 31st. Unlike recent advancements we've seen, these actually look practical and not too far off from leaving the concept phase.

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