The popular perception associated with robotics is miniaturization. We think of robotic arms for performing tasks that require a lot of skill, such as surgery. But why can’t we have giant-sized robots to help us with tasks that need fine motor skills and strength? Hold that thought, for Raytheon-Sarcos’ heavy lifter prototype does precisely that.
At first glance, the prototype looks like a forklift or crane, with a cab for the operator. But instead of a rigid arm that can only move jerkily, the heavy lifter prototype has two massive robotic arms that are controlled by the operator.
Using these arms, or “slaves”, as they are referred to by Raytheon Sarcos executives, the prototype can easily lift heavy loads with greater dexterity and in smaller spaces than a conventional crane can.
Unlike the need for training on how to operate specialised equipment like cranes, no special training is needed to use the heavy lifter. You just move your own arms like you would if you are actually lifting the load, and the robotic arms follow suit. In fact, the operator even feels some “force feedback” so that he feels the forces the robot arms “feel” while doing the work.
A big advantage of using equipment such as this is the reduction in the number of workers needed for moving something heavy around. This will greatly enhance productivity on construction sites that have difficult terrain.
This type of robotic lifter can also be used in rescue operations, and potentially result in faster rescue of more people trapped under debris for example.