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Sensory Feedback from a Prosthetic Hand

NSF Award:

Towards a Neuroprosthetic Hand  (University of Utah)

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The most widely used techniques for controlling upper limb prostheses do not provide feedback on reach and grasp movements. Researchers led by Kenneth Horch at the University of Utah are developing an artificial hand that works more naturally with the body and provides increased function through sensory feedback. In earlier work, his group found that localized electrical stimulation of amputee nerve stumps can produce sensations of touch and joint movement. The researchers have combined this discovery with appropriate sensors and a control algorithm to create a neuroprosthetic hand. 

Horch's team has developed a sophisticated control algorithm that uses feedback from a position sensor and a force sensor placed in the gripper (or fingers) of a commercially-produced artificial hand. The algorithm is designed to overcome mechanical deficiencies in the device (for example, the deadband that occurs when initiating a movement); the algorithm also smoothes the transition between position/velocity control (for example, when opening or closing the gripper) and force/impedance control (for example, when grasping an object). In addition, the researchers devised a simplified procedure for implanting and interfacing with electrodes for the hand.

These advances have set the stage for experiments with human subjects of greater depth and duration than previously possible. By providing natural sensations, neuroprosthetics could provide prosthetic limb users with more control and capabilities and enable their fuller integration into the American workforce.

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  • Image of an artifical limb
An artificial limb
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