If you’ve ever stared enviously at an ant, jealous of its six-legged efficiency, then you’ll be happy to hear that engineers at Japan’s Inami Hiyama Laboratory have developed a multi-limbed robotic suit – able to give users control over two extra arms.

The MetaLimbs system is built up of two main parts: The first is a set of robotic limbs that rest on the wearer like a tech-heavy backpack. The second is a tracking system attached to the wearer’s legs.

Optical markers are attached to toes and knees. When the wearer moves their leg, so does the accompanying robotic arm. When they squeeze their toes, the robot hand tightens its grip.

There’s also haptic feedback, so when wearer holds something they feel pressure on their foot.

Although the demo highlights the use of additional limbs alongside the upper body, it seems the most immediately useful case for the technology would be for those who have lost the use of their arms.

Being able to shift control of the legs to an exterior set of limbs is a useful way to rejig body functionality for those with disabilities. It would be interesting, for example, to see if a similar system could move in the opposite direction – with artificial legs controlled by arm movements.

Beyond this, the project raises interesting questions about the concept of the human body, and how it can be reorganised with the help of advanced prosthetics.

It is a novel experience, your body will adapt to a new type of human shape and the body schema will metamorphose [to encompass] multiple arms.