Scientists Develop Robotic Fingers for the Human Hand

November 19, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. innovative /ˈɪn əˌveɪ tɪv/ (adj.) – presenting new methods or ideas
Example: The scientists are creating innovative machines that could make people’s lives easier.

2. extension /ɪkˈstɛn ʃən/ (n.) – an additional part
Example: Her glasses are like extensions of her body because she can’t do anything without it.

3. intuitive /ɪnˈtu ɪ tɪv, -ˈtyu-/ (adj.) – easy to learn and use
Example: I use the version of the software with a very intuitive interface.

4. adaptation /ˌæd əpˈteɪ ʃən/ (n.) – the process of changing to fit a particular purpose of situation
Example: Researchers considered designing the tool for easy adaptation.

5. appeal /əˈpil/ (v.) – to attract the interest or to stimulate emotions
Example: Mr. Ancheta’s project appealed to the bosses because of its uniqueness and practicality.


Read the text below.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created robotic fingers that could help people deal with tasks more easily.

The two extra fingers are worn around the wrist, copying the hand movements of the user. The fingers are attached to the hand, positioned next to the pinky and thumb. The device uses sensors controlled by an innovative algorithm, allowing both the device and the hand to work simultaneously.

Developers focused on perfecting the movement of the device, which created the intuitive and natural way to move the robotic fingers. Professor Harry Asada of the Department of Mechanical Engineering also said that commands are not needed as the robotic fingers naturally react and mimic the actions of the user.

According to Professor Asada, using tools like extra fingers and arms with effective control and communication makes one feel as if they are extensions of the body.

Professor Asada agreed that the project is still on its prototype stage. However, the MIT researchers are taking steps to make the device smaller. They aim to create the device that is one-third its original size and to make it foldable, similar to a watch or bracelet. Also, researchers are still looking into factors like the size of the object the fingers can hold and the adaptation of the device to the force needed to grasp objects.

David Bourne, a scientist at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, commented that the device would appeal more to professionals, like the military, than to the public market because of its probable high cost.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         In what activities do you think the device could help people the most? Explain.
·         What could be the advantages and disadvantages of this invention?

Discussion B

·         Aside from the robotic fingers, what else could the field of robotics offer to our society?
·         Do you think we are becoming more dependent on technology nowadays? Why or why not?

November 19, 2014