Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have created a soft, lightweight, and potentially inexpensive neuroprosthesis for the hand. Details of the new development are published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
As part of a joint project, American and Chinese scientists have developed a unique hand prosthesis. The accessories for it cost only $ 500. At the same time, the most functional prostheses made on metal frames with electric motors are expensive (over $ 10 thousand). They are also very heavy and stiff. At the same time, the novelty weighs only 200 grams.
Despite the fact that the prosthesis is like an inflatable toy, the artificial hand feels something akin to being touched. For example, when the user touches or holds an object, integrated pressure sensors transmit an electrical signal to a specific part of the remaining hand.
The prosthesis itself is made of EcoFlex elastomer. There are no electric motors in it, the functioning is based on the work of a special pneumatic system. It can handle several types of grippers, such as petting animals, pouring liquids from cartons, and other more complex tasks. The device itself determines exactly how the user intends to use it by decoding the electromyograms that the brain sends to the affected limb.
Another advantage of the technology is that it takes 15 minutes to learn how to use electronics.