Answer: robotic arms
In the 1980s, cartoon detective Inspector Gadget’s hat alone could add a helicopter, magnifying glass and even an extra set of hands to his lanky body. While Gadget wasn’t the best at solving crime, those extra limbs must have helped a lot, and researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Inami Laboratory have created a similar device for us regular humans: MetaLimbs.
Metalimbs, or Multiple Arts Interaction Metamorphism, are a pair of robotic arms that users strap to their body and control through a two-part system. There’s the robotic arms, which reach under the user’s own upper limbs, and a “limb postural tracking system” that uses optical trackers attached to the knees and toes to monitor position and rotation, moving the arms as needed. There’s also a sort of “smart sock” that lets the toes control the hands as they grasp objects.
The researchers demonstrate MetaLimbs by having a researcher draw on a large paper with his own two hands, while the robotic arms hold the paper in place. While a rather simple demonstration, the multitasking potential seems nearly infinite.