Juho Sado is an 89-year-old master calligrapher. For most of his life, he’s honed his technique, as muscles and tendons in his body make the slightest of micro adjustments to turn words into art. You could copy his work with a scanner, but you couldn’t ever just re-create it at will. Or could you?
Dr. Seiichiro Katsura, from Keio University, is crafting a robot that doesn’t just scan Sado’s work in 2-D but scans the way he works in 3-D. Sado’s brush is attached to a robot called the MCS–motion-copying system–that records the raw force and position of Sado’s movements. The robot can then reproduce the work, wielding a brush of its own.
“As with sound and visual information, the MCS is capable of preserving and reproducing the raw force and position information of human operators,” Katsura tells Co.Design. “Once human motion is stored using the MCS, it is possible to reproduce it anytime and anywhere.”
And it’s not just calligraphy that the MCS could capture. Imagine any highly skilled motion–like the deft movements needed in cooking haute cuisine or completing surgical procedures–and the MCS’s potential becomes clear. Katsura proposes an entire “haptic database” that could contain a movement history, much like A/V recording has long offered us somewhat perfect auditory and visual histories.
Of course, there’s also one more way that Katsura could flip the switch on his robot. In one mode, it learns movements. In another, it reproduces them. But in yet another mode, it seems reasonably possible to me that it could then teach those movements to a person, quite literally holding humanity’s hand as it taught so many learned skills to the next generation.
[Hat tip: Prosthetic Knowledge]