Sci-fi in the 8th District October 2, 2020
"I have become able to perform new tasks ever since I started to test on myself what the capabilities of the human hands are" – says Benedek Tasi, who is developing an anatomically correct biomechatronical prosthesis.
The first thought is the classical James Cameron movie, The Terminator when you first see the newly developed robotic hand developed by Benedek Tasi and his colleagues. Based on Mr Tasi's idea, a group of friends began the work on the robotic hand, now properly functioning, during their university years. The development of the somewhat still science-fiction-looking device was supervised by the leaders of the Sensing-actuating Robotics Lab, Associate Professor György Cserey and Associate Professor Miklós Koller of Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPCU). Mr. Tasi explains it with a smile that the basic idea of designing an anatomically accurate, so-called biomechatronic hand came in 2017, because "the current units resembling the human hands with their robotic anthropomorphic internal structures differ way too much from the real human hands. Therefore, even if they are very precise, they are suitable for limited tasks only."
While in high-school, Mr. Tasi was unable to decide whether he wanted to become a doctor, a physicist or an engineer. He got attracted towards bionics during an open day event at the university. Then and there did it become clear to him that his true interest was to develop robotic limbs. He was in the third year of his BSc studies when he and his friends decided the that they wanted to spend more than the usual two semesters finishing their thesis. The team let the professors in the robotics lab know that their plan was to create a hand. They set a goal to design one that would mimic to the smallest details what the evolution of tens of thousands of years created in our real flesh-and-blood hands.
A robotic hand of this kind would by far outperform the ones in existence today, and it would provide significantly higher freedom to the wearer. From the very beginning, Mr. Tasi (who became an Info-Bionics engineer in the meantime) came up with ideas ensuring to the team that the fine movements of the robotic hand were competing with that of a real hand.
The work of the research team is unique even by international standards, which is well demonstrated by the fact that they have begun the process to obtain international patent rights. Mr. Tasi emphasizes the role of the mentors in the success: "Once I found an important publication at 2:00 a.m. but I did not have access to the database. I asked Gyuri to help, who sent me the study in just 15 minutes." – he recalls the story to demonstrate the exceptional student-professor relationship. Gyuri, aka György Cserey, Vice Dean for Innovation of the Faculty, simply adds that he and his colleague, Miklós Koller mainly want to motivate their students. This is the reason why they support anyone with a desire to come and work in the lab during the summer and give the students freedom to research anything of their primary personal interest.
The mentor states: "Benedek is racing like a Japanese maglev train, and we are trying to provide all assistance to him so that he can race as fast as he possibly can." Mr. Tasi adds with a smile: "I have become able to perform new tasks ever since I started to test on myself what the capabilities of the human hands are. For instance, the movement range of my joints have increased, and more and more, I can move my fingers independently from one another."
The original Hungarian version of the article can be accessed here.