World-class robotic acquisition received with open arms

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is set to place the African continent on par with the rest of the world in terms of research into the fields of robot programming by demonstration and human robot interaction.
This follows the acquisition of the R1.8 million WAM (whole arm manipulator) robotic arm; a multi-fingered programmable grasper with the dexterity to secure target objects of different sizes, shapes, and orientations, CSIR`s latest newsletter explains.
“This robotic arm is a highly dexterous, naturally back-drivable manipulator with human-like kinematics but with dexterity and agility even beyond human capability. The joint ranges exceed those for conventional robotic arms,” says Jonathan Claasens of the CSIR, specialising in machine learning by demonstration.
He works in the council’s field robotics unit also referred to as mobile intelligent autonomous systems (MIAS). “This arm is built to outperform conventional manipulator robots given that it is adaptable to objects scaled for human grasping, such as hand-held tools; is safe for human interaction and its intuitive application development.
“We are really excited and foresee highly advanced research outputs soon.” In terms of the applications of the arm, Claasens adds, “This technology will be used to develop control and planning techniques that lend themselves very effectively to the mining sector where conditions are hazardous for humans. The robot is also capable of very precise interaction. We already received a keen interest from the mining industry in South Africa and are currently in discussions.”
Having received the title of “most advanced robotic arm” in the special Millennium Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, the WAM weighs a mere 27 kg and is adaptable to mobile platforms.
“This is the first time that such advanced research in this field will be conducted on the African continent and I am really grateful to be part of this development. Interesting times lie ahead.”
MIAS is an emerging research area at the CSIR and forms part of the newly-established CSIR Mathematical and Digital Science unit. Research in this domain focuses on the development of science, engineering and technology capabilities in those areas of field robotics that promote intelligent behaviour generation.