DARPA Robotic Arms Can (Almost, Excruciatingly Slowly) Change a Tire

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 2 2013 11:52 AM

DARPA Robotic Arms Can (Almost, Excruciatingly Slowly) Change a Tire

Auto mechanics don’t need to worry about their jobs quite yet. But a video from DARPA’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program could give hope to anyone who struggles to change a tire.

In the video below, which is sped up 24x, robotic arms remove a tire with the help of a tool. They do not, alas, put a new one on—but the researchers are getting there. The video shows “the old hands and not the new hands, and they did not quite have the dexterity to thread the nut onto the bolt in a way that it doesn’t cross the thread,” Gill Pratt from DARPA tells the New York Times.

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Robotic arms and hands from the DARPA program could eventually be used to create better, low-cost prosthetics as well as machines that can be sent into dangerous situations—like to examine IEDs.

In real time, the DARPA tire-removing robot is moving excruciatingly slowly. But it could be worse—a video from 2010 that showed robotic arms folding towels had to be sped up 50x.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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