The biggest challenge with deadlifting, as is the case with lifting anything, is your grip. The muscles that we use to pull objects are some of the largest muscles in the human body, even if you don’t look like these guys…
We’re talking about the latissimus dorsi or “lats.” These can be huge and strong, but every chain is only as strong as its weakest link; those puny hand things any the end of our respective arms.
The muscles that allow us to grasp are minuscule compared to the lats. Hands are the proverbial donkeys on the oxcart of our pulling abilities. That may be about to change.
GM may not have designed their Roboglove for lifting weights, specifically, but as soon as I can get my hands in a pair I’ll be setting new personal records for deadlifting.
Inspired by NASA
GM’s Roboglove was inspired by a robot.
In 1997 the R2 robot was conceived by NASA to alleviate some of the workload assumed by astronauts. R2 is a robonaut, who doesn’t require oxygen or sleep.
After a joint venture of development including GM and NASA, R2 was sent to the International Space Station in 2011. After a few years of testing, in 2014, he was given legs to move about the platform, but it’s not his legs that inspired the Roboglove. It’s his dexterous hands.
He can carry up to 40 pounds of weight, but he can also manipulate his fingers with 12 degrees of freedom, for tasks like texting or button pushing.
That’s pretty good for a robot, especially considering he can manage five pounds per finger.
Built for Factory Work
Borrowing from what they learned in the R2 project, GM applied those technologies to a glove, enabling wearers to grasp objects with superman’s grip.
They’ve added in sensors designed to mimic the human nervous system so the glove can tell when the wearer desires to pick up an object. The sensors are so accurate, Roboglove can manage something as fragile as an egg.
Clearly, GM did not intend the glove for making omelets; they were thinking about deadlifting.
Kidding aside, GM has not identified exactly how they intend to use this technology, but the obvious application is in their factories, where they can relieve the overworked hands of their team.
Imagine the moral boost in addition to the insurance impact for employees who suffer less fatigue or carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Theoretical Impact on Lifting
All nascent technologies draw the attention of hackers. The Apple iPhone and Apple TV have been hacked since they first launched.
Hacking is typically associated with deep coding nerds, but this is one technology which could beg a few meatheads to perk up.
The current standard for deadlifting massive amounts of weight is to use a mixed grip or straps. Both are passive attempts to reduce the inevitable. Eventually, gravity pulls the bar out of the lifter’s grip.
What if he could grip indefinitely? Once the Roboglove gets out of the lab, into the hands of powerlifters, we could see some massive records broken.
From there, the possibilities are endless. This glove could be a tool everyday Joes and Janes use to wrangle cars from ditches, pulling them with their grip.
There’s that fateful scene in every movie, where the guys are hanging off something. You always wonder how anyone could just work another human up with their less-than-average grip strength. Now we could all keep a Roboglove around, just in case someone needs saving.
“Here, take my Roboglove!”