Gesture robots now a reality

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Robots have been featured in countless novels, movies and TV shows.

Now, thanks to a partnership between two local companies, Clearpath Robotics and Thalmic Labs, gesture-controlled robots will no longer be science fiction.
Gesture control robots are operated by human motion, meaning that robots can move according to simple body gestures.

In other words, your hands become the remote.

The new gesture robot is being called Husky, which uses Thalmic Lab’s Myo Gesture Control software.

Myo is basically a wristband that operates as a motion detector for signal control transmissions. Its creator, Thalmic Labs, released the Myo Alpha developer unit to Clearpath Robotics for testing.

This collaboration hopes to push the limits of mechanical control.

“What’s exciting about this project specifically is that products that are used were designed by companies that came out of the startup world in Kitchener-Waterloo Region,” said Meghan Hennessey, marketing communications coordinator for Clearpath Robotics.

“It’s really exciting to see two startup companies come together to build something that’s interactive with one another,” she added,

Clearpath uses a software system called Robot Operating System (ROS), which integrates Thalmic Labs’ gesture control armband with one of Clearpath’s atomist robots, the Husky.

Together, they have demonstrated how robotics can be controlled through human motion.

According to Hennessy, the gesture-controlled robot is going to be marketed towards the everyday consumer.

“The applications that are really noted are using the gesture control to turn on the TV while lying on your couch without having to look for the remote,” she said.
She also explained that they also intend to bring Myo to the industrial sector, for use at construction sites and for heavy lifting. Hennessy believes that the combination of the Myo and the Husky can work to revolutionize the labour required for construction or any other physically demanding jobs.

“The Myo armband allows for a high level of fidelity and ease of use,” she said. “It essentially eliminates having the joystick or any type of remote control.”

“So you can use your arm movements to effortlessly move things around.”

However, Hennessy is particularly looking forward to the impact that Myo might have on the local companies, referring to it as a “stepping stone.”

“Now we can show people how we can move robots with our body movement,” she said. “The next step is being able to make robots that can move by themselves. It’s a really interesting way of showing how our technology can escalate from one innovation to another.”

Hennessy elaborated on the partnership between Clearpath and Thalmaic Labs, explaining that the reason why they collaborated initiatives was because the two companies’ founders graduated from the mechatronic engineering program at the University of Waterloo together.

“It’s kind of a cool, small world that brings everyone together,”Hennessy said. “They’ve really stayed in the loop together and have been big supporters of the startup community.”

Clearpath and Thalmic Labs will be furthering their journey of robotic developments.

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