IV. Augmenting Robots

Jeremy Gottlieb: Author
David Leech Anderson: Author

Augmenting robots generally enhance capabilities that a person already has or replace capabilities that a person has lost.


IN MEDICINE (Prostheses)

The most common example of an augmenting medical device would be a prosthetic limb. Modern prosthetics can be complex electronic devices that learn to respond to neural signals sent by the patient. For example, some prosthetic arms can be connected to muscles in the chest so that the patient moving those muscles can cause the arm to move in characteristic ways. This is a process called targeted muscle reinnervation.

There is also a lot of ongoing research on building prosthetic limbs that can be integrated with the brain in such a way that they will respond to the patient's thoughts, much as a normal arm would. The DEKA Arm is one of the most advanced versions of this type of prosthetic.

Targeted Muscle

IN INDUSTRY (Exoskeletons)

Finally, there are several examples of exoskeletons in development that can enhance a person's existing capabilities (as opposed to prosthetics, which give a person a missing capability). The aim of these systems is typically to augment human strength without sacrificing speed or agility. However, some of these exoskeletons could eventually be used to allow patients who are paralyzed, or suffering from some neuro-muscular disease like multiple sclerosis or Lou Gherig's disease to recover a full range of motor abilities.

Some examples of exoskeletons are:

Raytheon XOS