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Soon, prosthetic hands may become 'human-like', get ability to sense things

Scientists have developed an electronic glove that can be worn over a prosthetic hand to provide human-like softness, warmth, appearance and sensory perception

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

prosthetic hand
While a conventional prosthetic hand helps restore mobility, the new e-glove advances the technology by offering the realistic human hand-like features in daily activities and life roles | Photo: Shutterstock

Scientists have developed an electronic glove that can be worn over a prosthetic hand to provide human-like softness, warmth, appearance and sensory perception, such as the ability to sense pressure, temperature and hydration.

People with hand amputations experience difficult daily life challenges, often leading to lifelong use of prosthetic hands and services, according to researchers from Purdue University in the US, who developed the e-glove.

While a conventional prosthetic hand helps restore mobility, the new e-glove advances the technology by offering the realistic human hand-like features in daily activities and life roles, with the potential to improve their mental health and wellbeing by helping them more naturally integrate into social contexts.

The e-glove, described in the journal NPG Asia Materials, uses thin, flexible electronic sensors and miniaturised silicon-based circuit chips on the commercially available nitrile glove.

The e-glove is connected to a specially designed wristwatch, allowing for real-time display of sensory data and remote transmission to the user for post-data 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," said Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor in Purdue's College of Engineering.

"The e-glove is configured with a stretchable form of multi-modal 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," said lee who collaborated with researchers at the University of Georgia and the University of Texas in the US.

Lee and his team hope that the appearance and capabilities of the e-glove will improve the well-being of prosthetic hand users by allowing them to feel more comfortable in social contexts.

The glove is available in different skin tone colours, has life-like fingerprints and artificial fingernails.

"The prospective end user could be any prosthetic hand users who have felt uncomfortable wearing current prosthetic hands, especially in many social contexts," Lee said.

The fabrication process of the e-glove is cost-effective and manufacturable in high volume, making it an affordable option for users unlike other emerging technologies with mind, voice and muscle control embedded within the prosthetic at a high cost.

These emerging technologies do not provide the human-like features that the e-glove provides, researchers said.

First Published: Wed, September 04 2019. 12:35 IST