Wi-Fi device relays force in real time


A Keio University researcher has unveiled an invention that instantly and wirelessly transmits force between two devices, in a development that could allow physical therapists to treat patients remotely.

Kouhei Ohnishi said his “force transceiver” permits two-way communication in real time that precisely relates both the amount of pressure being applied and the resistance it is encountering.

With use of a robot, for example, it would mean a skilled operator could use the device to carry out complex work in areas unsafe for humans, such as in extreme heat or in a highly radioactive environment.

“For physical therapy, the feeling and movement of therapists must be transferred without any delay,” Ohnishi said. “The therapist will also be able to feel how well the patient’s limbs are moving, for example, which is a key piece of information.”

The technology should make providing medical care easier, said Ohnishi, a professor of system design engineering at Keio.

The technology could also be adapted to increase or diminish the force being applied, he said.

The system requires high-speed wireless communications many times faster than today’s Wi-Fi setups, as well as high-speed computing capacity.

To demonstrate the technology, Ohnishi’s team built two boxlike tools with levers on top.

When the lever on one of the units was moved, the lever on the other moved at exactly the same speed and force at the exact same time, as if they were physically connected.

A reporter who tested the device said that when using a lever on one device to make the other one push a fork into an apple, it was possible to feel the resistance of the fruit’s skin as the tines penetrated it.

Ohnishi said the device could also someday be used to preserve the techniques of such craftsmen as master lens grinders.