2021-03-19 144

There is actually a robot that always wins when playing the rock-paper-scissors with humans. When a person decides to choose between rock, paper or scissors, brainwaves are formed within the brain and these waves are transmitted to the associated muscles which move the fingers accordingly. It takes 0.02~0.03 seconds for the fingers to receive the signal and actually move, and it is within this fleeting moment that the robot takes note. Even before the hand is moved to form one of the three symbols within the 0.02~0.03 second timeframe, the robot already senses the human intention and this is its secret to its complete victory over human. This robot was in fact developed back in 2015.


The Medical Assistant Robotics & Cognitive Haptics (MARCH) Laboratory headed by professor Keehoon Kim at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, POSTECH, measures and interprets such human bio signals as brainwaves, nerve signals and muscle signals to develop robots capable of preemptively identifying the movement intention of people.


Active research is underway worldwide to develop wearable robots that assist humans in performing hard labor-intensive work or help with rehabilitation for people with disabilities. These wearable robots enhance the power of soldiers marching over mountains in full gear, firefighters rescuing the injured at the scene of a fire or workers moving heavy objects in industrial settings. They also enable patients who can’t move their body intentionally due to strokes to walk normally, and for partial amputees to regain their bodily functions and lead more regular lives.


While wearable robots have significantly advanced in hardware technology, their full-fledged entry into the market may take a while. The development of interface technology, required to promptly identify the movement intentions of people and drive real-time movements, is making relatively slow progress.


For instance, catching the signals with almost 100% accuracy is possible today when it comes to finger or arm movements. The problem is that the response rate of robots has not caught up to this level. If we try to scoop rice with a spoon or get a piece of a side dish wearing an extremely slow-moving robotic prosthetic arm, it may inevitably cause discomfort. The Lab is developing technology to fully embed such robotics into the human body so that people wearing robotic prosthetic arms and other wearable robots sense that the wearable is more of an innate part of their own body.


Building on this developing technology, the MARCH Lab is speeding up its work to engineer rehabilitation and surgical robots: rehabilitation robots are expected to enhance the physical abilities of patients and surgical robots will assist surgeons in generating consistent operational outcomes.


Professor Kim commented, “Our goal is to ensure that physical limitations do not stop us, for even the elderly among us, from becoming active and responsible members of society. We are offering robotics as a bridge to pave this divide and promote an improved quality of life for all people, if only from the physical perspective”.