I’ve never looked at an invention that was so clearly the future and been so deeply repulsed.
MobiLimb is a new research project led by the French engineering school Telecom Paristech. It’s a snap-on, USB robotic finger that could be compatible with most phones. Consisting of relatively simple motors, actuators, and sensors, its five segments can twist and flex like an actual appendage–like your phone has its own finger to touch you back.
I can’t argue with its utility: The finger allows a phone to pull itself around (imagine saying “find my iPhone–and your iPhone crawls to you). It can serve as a (somewhat phallic) joystick. It can hold a pen to draw on paper. It can tilt itself up so the screen sits at the perfect angle to watch a movie. And, yes, it can slowly stroke your wrist when a totally platonic friend unwittingly sends you the wrong emoji.
If its own, eerily human movements weren’t enough to haunt your dreams, researchers also developed a highly realistic, flesh-colored silicone cover for the robot, too. That’s right. The finger doesn’t just move like a finger. It also looks like a finger–a finger that can, say, caress your hand every time somebody hearts one of your Facebook posts.
MobilLimb could change the reigning relationship most of us have with our phones today, in that it could imbue your smartphone–a piece of flat glass–with real, physical faculties. But that’s a relationship I, for one, am not ready to pursue just yet. Even if the project is soon to go open source for anyone *shivers* to duplicate on their own.