WTF?! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a wearable robotic tail that could improve your agility and balance? In all likelihood, no—it’s probably something you’ve never considered unless you’re a Furry and into that kind of thing. But Researchers at Keio University in Japan have created such a device.
The prototype, called Arque, was on show at the 2019 SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles last week. While it might bring to mind the tails of dogs and cats, its inspiration comes from seahorses.
The appendage is made up of several interconnected plastic vertebrae, and it can be customized depending on a wearer’s weight and height by adding or removing more segments. Small weights can be inserted inside each vertebra to help offset the wearer’s weight, allowing them to stay balanced when moving quickly or carrying heavy objects, writes Fast Company.
The tail is powered by four artificial muscles, which contract and expand using an external pressurized air system. Requiring an external compressor does mean it’s not exactly mobile right now, but, as noted by Gizmodo, advances in artificial muscles mean future iterations might be powered by just a battery.
A mobile version of the Arque could have several applications, such as assisting construction and warehouse workers in lifting and carrying heavy objects, or as a device for helping people who have trouble balancing. It could even be used in conjunction with virtual reality titles, swaying users’ bodies to match what’s happening within a game.