Japanese Company Reveals Doctor Octopus-Style Robot Arms You Control With Your Feet

Weird Science
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 - 12:17PM

Do you know what sucks about being human? Our stupid, boring number of limbs. Hands are really great, so why has evolution limited us to a single pair of these wonderful tools, thereby making it impossible to hold a coffee cup while simultaneously texting and eating a candy bar? It's just bad design.

Doctor Octopus has the right idea—in order to multitask at peak efficiency, he's added an extra four robotic arms to his body that are controlled mentally, allowing him to perform scientific research, rob banks, and beat up Spider-Man with added ease and coordination.

If you've ever dreamed of having your own additional mechanical arms, we're pleased to announce that this future is not all that far way, as Inami Hiyama Laboratory debuts MetaLimbs, a new concept that will appear at the Siggraph 2017 Emerging Technologies expo. As with Doc Ock's signature tools, these robotic limbs can be controlled by the user to add an extra pair of hands to whatever task may need doing.

The control system for these arms isn't quite as sophisticated as something that gets wired directly onto the user's spine—instead, they're controlled through sensors that are placed on the user's knees, feet, and toes. The leg acts as a guide for the mechanical arm, so as the user flexes and moves their feet, they're able to control the device's extra pair of hands.

Naturally, this means that using MetaLimbs while walking is going to be problematic, but while the arms are designed for use when sitting down, there are some actions that can be taken while standing, in some limited circumstances.

The video shows one user attempting to control a soldering iron with one of these robotic limbs, which might be going a bit far in terms of trusting the accuracy of the technology—and, more importantly, the dexterity the user has when using their feet. For most people, our legs are not as practiced as our arms when it comes to fine motor skills, so there's probably some work to do before MetaLimbs feel genuinely comfortable.

That said, this emerging technology definitely has potential, and could revolutionize work for many engineers, creators, and scientists around the world. If you've ever wished you had an extra pair of hands to help you get everything done over the course of the day, it's worth keeping an eye on what Inami Hiyami Laboratory does with these MetaLimbs in the near future.

As this kind of technology catches on, we're all likely to increasingly augment our puny human bodies with cold, hard, efficient robotic accessories. Soon, this world will be filled with similar tools, as we all become Doctor Octopuses in our own rights. The only danger is what will happen to comic book science fiction when this iconic villain's claim to fame becomes commonplace in the real world—Doc Ock won't seem quite so impressive once we've all got robot arms.