Low-cost development of a prosthetic hand that helps amputees feel again

The development of a low-cost, soft, and lightweight prosthetic hand made of a synthetic rubber called EcoFlex, to help amputees feel again, by a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in cooperation with engineers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The field of nerve prosthetics has seen a lot of progress in recent years, but the technology is still far from enough to make a difference in the lives of most amputees, however, a new development from MIT could change that.

The researchers found that the haptic-feedback prosthesis restored some primitive feeling in the volunteer's residual limb, and the new design is surprisingly durable, recovering quickly after being hit with a hammer or run over by a car.

Another advantage of a prosthetic hand is that it doesn't take much time to learn how to use it; After about 15 minutes, two volunteers found that they could write with a pen.

According to the researchers, the smart hand is soft and flexible, weighs about half a pound, and its components total only about $500.

The new flexible design of the prosthetic hand bears an uncanny resemblance to the inflatable robot in the animated movie Big Hero 6 such as the squishy robot.

The prosthetic limb consists of five balloon-like fingers, each embedded with bits of fibers, resembling the articulated bones in actual fingers, and the twisted numbers are attached to a 3D-printed palm in the shape of a human hand.

Instead of controlling each finger with attached electric motors, as most neural prosthetics do, the researchers used a simple pneumatic system to precisely inflate the fingers and bend them into specific positions. This system, which includes a small pump and valves, can be worn; This significantly reduces the weight of the prosthesis.

Professor Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical and civil and environmental engineering at MIT said, this is not a product yet, but the performance is already comparable to or superior to existing prosthetics, and we are excited about it. There is huge potential to make this very low-cost soft prosthesis for low-income families who have had amputations.

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