Bionic Arm, Space Debris Fly Catcher, May Be Used to Limit Car Crashes

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 10:39 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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A new bionic arm developed by Swiss scientists to catch flying space debris may help humanity create other technologies where reaction times are crucial, like cushioning or avoiding a car crash.

NBC News reported that the four-fingered robot successfully maneuvers to catch everything from a tennis racket to a hammer in less than five-hundredths of a second. The findings of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne were published Monday in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

"Increasingly present in our daily lives and used to perform various tasks, robots will be able to either catch or dodge complex objects in full motion," researcher Aude Billard said of the new technology in a statement. "Not only do we need machines able to react on the spot, but also to predict the moving object’s dynamics and generate a movement in the opposite direction."

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In last year's hit Hollywood film "Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, a space crew is bombarded by a hail of space debris, which destroys key pieces of the spaceship. This life-endangering threat is very real, and just last week the U.S. House of Representatives even held a hearing on it called "Space Traffic Management: How to Prevent a Real Life 'Gravity.'"

Former NASA shuttle astronaut George Zamka said that "During my two space missions, we flew upside down and backwards to protect our shuttle windows from orbital debris. And even doing that, we had debris strikes and cracks in our windows," Florida Today reported.

Scientists who developed the arm say the technology could be used to intercept, deflect, and avoid this orbital space junk from creating havoc on space missions. They also say it could be used to help reduce the number of fatal car crashes, and much more.

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