The ability to grasp, pick up, and carry not only distinguishes us from most other species, but it also represents a major measure of our quality of life. Hand grip has relevance to work, leisure, and daily living. According to Swedish Medical Technology company Bioservo Technologies AB, as many as 5 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 84 have a disabling hand grip.

Bioservo’s Robotic SEM Glove helps weakened muscles gain strength to perform tasks. The SEM Glove was developed jointly by General Motors and NASA for use on the International Space Station. General Motors licensed the glove technology to Bioserve for health care, manufacturing, and industrial applications. The Soft Extra Muscle (SEM) technology uses battery power to multiply grip force. The glove’s sensors, actuators, and tendons compare to human nerves, muscles, and tendons. The glove increases power and reduces fatigue. According to the company, fatigue sets in within a few minutes when a person continuously grips a tool.

When NASA and General Motors observed the dexterity levels possible with the robotic glove, the industrial and medical applications were obvious. General Motors will test the first manufacturing uses of the SEM Glove while Bioserve continues to develop the technology. “Combining the best of three worlds – space technology from NASA, engineering from GM and medtech from Bioservo – in a new industrial glove could lead to industrial scale use of the technology,” said Tomas Ward, Bioservo CEO. Ward also described the SEM Glove as a major step in developing soft exoskeleton technology.