A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo are developing interchangeable robot arms that can be worn like a backpack.
The team lead and a professor at the university, Masahiko Inami, in an interview said that the device was inspired by traditional Japanese puppetry and a short story by novelist Yasunari Kawabata. In the story, a man borrows a young woman’s arm and proceeds to spend the night with it. The arms are also inspired by the idea of jizai, a Japanese term that roughly defines autonomy and the freedom to do as one pleases.
The Jizai Arms system consists of a backpack-like base unit with sockets for up to six arms, and interchangeable hand modules depending on the task. The arms can be controlled by the user or remotely. The aim is to boost a relationship like between a musician and an instrument, where a musical instrument becomes a part of the performer’s body.
The researchers believe that the Jizai Arms system has the potential to help in emergency situations, such as search-and-rescue missions, but is surely not a rival to human beings. It is rather something that helps humans do as they please, such as a bicycle or an e-bike. It not only supports humans, but also can unlock creativity.