The great science fiction author Bernard Cribbins once wrote, “if robots are to be the equal of man, then they must be at liberty to make those same mistakes he may”, and he was right. Thankfully researchers at AIST (Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) have designed a human-sized robotic hand, so that the droids we one day work alongside will be able to molest us just as readily as our human colleagues. I certainly wouldn’t want to be touched up by the arc-welding tool more usually found constructing the chassis of a Honda Civic, however polite the robot wielding it was.
Although they miss one digit in comparison to our own, AIST’s robotic hands are capable of exerting the same 15 Newtons of finger-tip force that we can, with fingers having four joints and the thumb five. A plethora of sensors make sure that it’s a playful pinch to your buttocks as you bend to refill the photocopier, rather than ripping them out of your trousers, and advanced motor mechanisms ensure smooth and precise control.
Whether or not robots will be required to mimic the Michael Jackson-style “one glove” look is as yet unconfirmed.