Japanese researcher builds device that ‘transmits’ force digitally

It can actually be said of Kouhei Ohnishi, a system design engineering professor at Keio University, that “the force is with him” – having made public his invention, a system that would allow physical force to be transmitted wirelessly between two devices. Such a system could be a boon to workers in unsafe environments – where a worker could do physical work without having to be physically onsite – or physical therapists to still treat patients without being physically with them.

Ohnishi calls it the “force transceiver,” a system that permits not just communicating force to a target, but a feedback of how much resistance the force is encountering in real-time. In very simple terms, this could work wonders in areas where there might be some sort of contamination that makes it unsafe for human workers to be near the site, but a robot could use the device and carry out tasks given to it by a skilled worker controlling it remotely. “For physical therapy, the feeling and movement of therapists must be transferred without any delay,” Ohnishi said in an interview. With his force transceiver, “the therapist will also be able to feel how well the patient’s limbs are moving, for example, which is a key piece of information.” Another application, Ohnishi said, is that in the future, the device could be used to preserve the techniques and motions of skilled craftsmen, such as master gem workers, who apply differing levels of pressure as they work with precious materials.

Ohnishi’s invention makes use of a high-speed wireless communication system between devices that is many times faster than say, what we presently use for WiFi Internet connections. Also contained within the devices are very powerful computer chips for high-speed computing capacity. In demonstrating the technology, Ohnishi’s team built two box-like tools with levers on top. When a tester moved the lever on one of the units, the lever on the other device also moved at exactly the same speed and with the same force instantaneously – there was no lag between the devices, and it was as if they were physically connected. The value in the technology is the instantaneous transfer, and there can be no lag. A reporter who tested the device described that when using the device to make the other side of the device push a fork into an apple, he actually felt the resistance of the fruit’s skin as the fork penetrated it.

[via The Star]

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