E-glove slips over prosthetic hands to alert the senses
An artificial body part that behaves just like the real thing would be an invaluable tool in restoring quality of life for amputees, and bit by bit prosthetics researchers are edging towards such a reality. In pursuit of these aims, scientists at Purdue University have developed a special type of glove that when worn over the top of a prosthetic hand, can mimic the sensory capabilities of a human counterpart in its own unique way.
Advances in flexible and stretchable electronics have opened up some very interesting avenues when it comes to prosthetics. We've looked at quite a few examples of prosthetic hands with integrated “electronic skins” that afford them certain functionalities, like a sense of touch and ability to feel pain.
But the Purdue team is coming at this from a slightly different angle, in that they’ve made a glove designed to fit over the top of existing prosthetic hands of varying shapes and sizes to give them new capabilities. The scientists began with a basic, off-the-shelf nitrile glove, fitted it out with a flexible suite of sensors, and finished it in soft rubbers to mimic the look and feel of a human hand.
The sensor-equipped glove has the ability to sense the pressure, temperature and hydration of whatever it comes into contact with. That data is collected and relayed to a connected wrist-watch that can then display the readings in real time and also pass it on wirelessly to a separate device for processing.
“We developed a novel concept of the soft-packaged, sensor-instrumented e-glove built on a commercial nitrile glove, allowing it to seamlessly fit on arbitrary hand shapes,” says Chi Hwan Lee, co-author on the paper. “The e-glove is configured with a stretchable form of multimodal sensors to collect various information such as pressure, temperature, humidity and electrophysiological biosignals, while simultaneously providing realistic human hand-like softness, appearance and even warmth.”
We have seen some experimental prostheses that translate this kind of data into immediate feedback for the user, such as a prosthetic hand that delivers a gentle electric vibration as it encounters more pressure. The Purdue team isn’t that far down the track just yet, but are aware of the possibilities.
“Adding additional sensory cues through audio and tactile/vibrational feedback to further improve the user interface would be interesting,” they write.
You can hear from the researchers in the video below, while their paper was published in the journal NPG Asia Materials.
Source: Purdue University