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JIZAI ARMS - portable robotic backpack with six additional limbs

TOKYO, Japan – In an ambitious attempt to empower humans, a team of engineers and designers from the University of Tokyo has developed a remarkable portable robotic system called JIZAI ARMS. This backpack-like device allows users to get up to six fully articulated robotic limbs, opening up new opportunities for agility and multitasking. Presented at the CHI'23 conference under the leadership of lead developer Nahoko Yamamura, JIZAI ARMS represents the latest innovation in a long-standing quest to create the perfect comfortable exoskeleton or robotic suit. While bulky Iron Man-style suits have not gained popularity, the design of this compact backpack may open up new possibilities for use.


"The JIZAI ARMS consists of a basic backpack weighing about 4 kg, to which up to six robotic limbs or specialized grips can be attached," Yamamura explained. "When fully equipped with limbs, the total weight is about 14 kg, so some physical strength is required for long-term use."

The robotic limbs were designed taking into account the length and proportions similar to human ones, and when fully deployed, they reached the same length as human arms. Careful positioning in several planes allows the limbs to work without interfering with each other.

Electrical interfaces and tilt angle sensors are integrated into each connecting port of the backpack, allowing precise tracking and control of attached limbs. It is also possible to replace various specialized grips, which allows users to customize them to perform specific tasks.

However, one of the main drawbacks of the current prototype of the JIZAI ARMS is the control mechanism. With up to six degrees of freedom for each limb, individual control of each arm presents a serious cognitive challenge. As a result, third-party operators have to manage positioning either using a special mobile application or using a miniature physical model synchronized with the complete system.

"Ideally, we want the user to be able to control the robot's limbs directly using a neurocomputer interface," Yamamura said. "Companies like Neuralink are making progress that could change the rules of the game for technologies like ours in the future."

At the moment, researchers are focused on exploring potential social interactions and use cases that are possible due to the expansion of human capabilities at the expense of robots. A demo video showing dancers equipped with JIZAI ARMS and guided by operators behind the stage hints at creative and performative possibilities.

As the line between man and machine blurs, JIZAI ARMS represents a bold step towards cybernetic improvement. "It's been half a century since the cyborg concept was introduced, and digital cyborgs equipped with wearable robotics have become the main topic of discussion," Yamamura explained. "Our system aims to provide social interaction between multiple augmented reality users in an emerging cyborg society."

Despite the fact that JIZAI ARMS is still in the prototype stage and has to overcome numerous technical limitations, it has captured the imagination of the whole world with its vision of how to provide users with amazing maneuverability with a portable, inconspicuous robotic backpack. As the team continues to develop the concept, the path to secure, intuitive cyborgization becomes more and more real.

However, in its current configuration, the JIZAI ARMS is nothing more than a high–tech "aesthetic" prosthesis. Robotic arms cannot perform useful functions such as lifting weights or manipulating objects. The most interesting – and most likely the only possible application at this stage of development is reflected in the company's promo video, where girls equipped with robo-hands perform a dance.

The demonstration of JIZAI ARMS is a PR move by which the company "probes" the market, trying to understand whether it is worth continuing to develop and invest in this project. A serious obstacle at the moment is the fact that another person needs to be involved to control the additional limbs, which creates additional difficulties for the performer. Under ideal conditions, control is assigned to the carrier via a Neuralink-type neurointerface from Elon Musk, but now the results of its tests are too ambiguous for widespread use. Perhaps, after creating a reliable and secure brain-computer interface, exoskeletons and devices like JIZAI ARMS will gain a new wave of popularity.

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