‘Live’ Robotic Arm Project Set to Benefit Industries and Students

Everyone fancies robots – whether they appear on movie screens or in real-life. Besides being entertaining and technologically exciting, they make complicated, repetitive tasks in the real world much lighter and easier.

For industries, robotics or automation offers convenience and efficiency that bring about improved productivity in the working environment. Most industrial robots are intended for specific tasks, and this involves programming or customisation via hard coding.

Recently, a project undertaken with a RM30,000 grant from WOU’s Centre for Research and Innovation (CeRI) has come up with a unique function – to use the human hand to control the movements of a robotic arm and its fingers, in order to perform certain tasks without using hard coding.

The gloved robotic hand bears a wireless Bluetooth control and mobile phone app with which it performs hand movements and multiple tasks. A micro-controller enables the robotic fingers to follow the hand movements of a human wearing a remote-controlled glove.

The project, which commenced on 1 January 2018 and is expected to finish by June 2021, can serve as a base for future projects, especially on robotic programming.

The project is headed by WOU’s School of Science & Technology (SST) Deputy Dean (Industry & Outreach) Dr Teoh Ping Chow who has collaborated with academics from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, TAR University College and the Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC). It is supported by several WOU final-year mechatronics students.

Dr. Teoh Ping Chow

Dr Teoh Ping Chow shares some insights on this technology.

Q: What is the purpose of your research?
Dr Teoh: This project intends to explore the various functionalities of a robotic hand mounted on an articulated robot, in order to perform various tasks that mimic the finger movements of a person who wears the glove. We selected the robotic hand as it can be used for demonstration and marketing purposes to promote our mechatronics programme. It can also be developed into a tool for ODL (open distance learning) education in the future – for example to remotely control the robotic hand through the Internet to perform tasks in a remote lab.

Q: What benefits do you see arising from this project?
Dr Teoh: The robot developed may not have direct application in the industry, but it can help to inspire potential students to understand the basics of technology and appreciate the efforts of the engineers and technicians who have contributed to the development of robotic technology.