Engineers at MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have designed a soft, lightweight and potentially low-cost neuro-prosthetic hand that can give an amputee the ability to perform daily activities with dexterity. Additionally, the researchers found the prosthetic, designed with a system for tactile feedback, restored some primitive sensation in a volunteer’s residual limb.
The MIT News Service reports that, amputees who tested the artificial limb performed daily activities, such as zipping a suitcase, pouring a carton of juice, and petting a cat, just as well as — and in some cases better than —those with more rigid neuroprosthetics. The researchers found the prosthetic, designed with a system for tactile feedback, even restored some primitive sensation in a volunteer’s residual limb.
The smart hand is soft and elastic, weighing in at about half a pound. Its components total around $500, which is a fraction of the weight and material cost associated with more rigid smart limbs. The new design is also surprisingly durable, quickly recovering after being struck with a hammer or even run over with a car.
“This is not a product yet, but the performance is already similar or superior to existing neuroprosthetics,” says Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT. “There’s huge potential to make this soft prosthetic very low cost.”
Zhao and his colleagues have published their work in Nature Biomedical Engineering.