Replicating human movement is an engineering challenge, and robots are slowly getting better at delicate movement all the time. A research team funded by Disney has constructed a remotely operated robot sensitive enough to thread a needle and move an egg without breaking it.

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The research team, which includes researchers from Northeastern University, The Catholic University of America and Disney Research Pittsburgh have created a new type of system for movement, using air and water. This configuration “achieves the high stiffness of a water-filled transmission with half the number of bulky hydraulic lines.”

After developing this system, the team constructed a humanoid robot that could be controlled by an operator, who can use the arms to perform some delicate tasks, such as play the xylophone, pick up eggs and thread needles.

These advances bode well for human-computer interaction and robotics, which has a whole range of applications that might require some extreme precision. Such advances robots can be especially helpful in improving telesurgery, a fast-growing branch of medicine, and may possibly even help industries such as construction, which rely on remotely operated machines like cranes.

[Disney Research]