Every technological advancement seems to have a sharp inflection point, a time before which it seems like any early adopters are considered kooks, but beyond which the device or service quickly becomes so mainstream that non-adopters become the kooky ones. Take cell phones, for example – I clearly remember a news report back in the 1990s about some manufacturers crazy idea to put a digital camera in a phone. Seemingly minutes later, you couldn’t buy a phone without a camera.
It seems like we may be nearing a similar inflection point with a technology far more complex and potentially far more life-altering than cameras in cell phones: powered exoskeletons. With increasing numbers of news stories covering advancements in exoskeletal assistants for the elderly, therapeutic applications for those suffering from spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases, and penetration into the workplace – including the battlefield – as amplifiers of human effort, it’s worth taking a look at where we are with exoskeletons before seeing someone using one in public becomes so commonplace as to go unnoticed.
Continue reading “The Cyborgs Among Us: Exoskeletons Go Mainstream”
Prosthetic arms can range from inarticulate pirate-style hooks to motorized five-digit hands. Control of any of them is difficult and carries a steep learning curve, rarely does their operation measure up to a human arm. Enhancements such as freely rotating wrist might be convenient, but progress in the field has a long way to go. Prosthetics with machine learning hold the promise of a huge step to making them easier to use, and work from Imperial College London and the University of Göttingen has made great progress.
The video below explains itself with a time-trial where a man must move clips from a horizontal bar to a nearby vertical bar. The task requires a pincer grasp and release on the handles, and rotation from the wrist. The old hardware does not perform the two operations simultaneously which seems clunky in comparison to the fluid motion of the learning model. User input to the arm is through electromyography (EMG), so it does not require brain surgery or even skin penetration.
We look forward to seeing this type of control emerging integrated with homemade prosthetics, but we do not expect them to be easy.
Continue reading “Artificial Limbs And Intelligence”
One of the interesting benefits of the 3D printing revolution is the dramatic increase in availability of prosthetics for people with virtually any need. With a little bit of research, a 3D printer, and some trial and error, virtually anyone can build a prototype prosthetic to fit them specifically rather than spend thousands of dollars for one from a medical professional. [Dominick Scalise] is attempting to flesh out this idea with a prosthetic hand that he hopes will be a useful prosthetic in itself, but also a platform for others to build on or take ideas from.
His hand is explained in great detail in a series of videos on YouTube. The idea that sets this prosthetic apart from others, however, is its impressive configurability while not relying on servos or other electronics to control the device. The wearer would use their other hand to set the dexterity hand up for whatever task they need to perform, and then perform that task. Its versatility is thanks to a unique style of locks and tensioners which allow the hand to be positioned in various ways, and then squeezed to operate the hand. It seems like a skilled user can configure the hand rapidly, although they must have a way to squeeze the hand to operate it, or someone will need to develop an interface of some sort for people without needing to squeeze it.
To that end, the files for making your own hand are available on Thingiverse. [Dominick] hopes that his project will spark some collaboration and development, using this hand as a basis for building other low-cost 3D printed prosthetics. There are many good ideas from this project that could translate well into other areas of prosthetics, and putting it all out there will hopefully spur more growth in this area. We’ve already seen similar-looking hands that have different methods of actuation, and both projects could benefit from sharing ideas with each other.
Thanks to [mmemetea] for the tip!
Continue reading “Dexterity Hand is a Configurable Prosthetic Hand”
It’s a reasonable certainty that 3D-printing is one day going to be a huge part of medicine. From hip implants to stents that prop open blood vessels to whole organs laid down layer by layer, humans will probably benefit immensely from medical printing. But if they do, the animals will get there first; somebody has to try this stuff out, after all.
An early if an unwilling adopter of 3D-printed medical appliances is [Jary], a 22-year-old Great Pied Hornbill, who recently received a 3D-printed replacement for his casque, the large, mostly hollow protuberance on the front the bird’s skull leading out over the upper beak. There’s no known function for the casque, but it had to be removed since cancer was destroying it and [Jary] wouldn’t have fared well post-surgically without one. Working from CT scans, the veterinary team created a model of the casque as well as a jig to guide the saw during surgery. There’s no word on what filament was used, but we’d guess PLA since it’s biocompatible and available in medical grades. The video below shows some of the surgery; it’s interesting to note that the prosthetic started out natural colored but quickly turned yellow as [Jary] preened with oils from glands near his tail feathers, just like a natural casque would.
Hornbills live to about 40 years old, so [Jary] is just middle-aged. Here’s hoping that he lives a long, happy life in return for being a pioneer in 3D-printing for medical and surgical appliances.
Continue reading “Bird Beats Cancer With The Help Of A 3D-Printed Prosthetic”
Innovation in prosthetics is open to anyone looking to enhance the quality of life, but there’s an aspect of it that is sometimes under-served. The DIY Prosthetic Socket entry to the Hackaday Prize is all about the foundation of a useful prosthesis: a custom, form-fitting, and effective socket with a useful interface for attaching other hardware. While [atharvshringaregt] is also involved with a project for a high-tech robotic hand with meaningful feedback, socket fitting and design is important enough to be its own project.
The goal is not just to explore creating these essential parts in a way that’s accessible and affordable to all, but to have them include a self-contained rechargeable power supply that can power attachments. Thoughtful strap placement and a power supply design that uses readily available components with a 3D printed battery housing makes this DIY prosthetic socket a useful piece of design that keeps in mind the importance of comfort and fitting when it comes to prosthetics; even the fanciest robot hand isn’t much good otherwise.
We live in an amazing time where the availability of rapid prototyping tools and expertise to use them has expanded faster than at any other time in human history. We now have an amazing ability to quickly bring together creative solutions — perfect examples of this are the designs for specialized arm prosthetics, Braille printing, and custom wheelchair builds that came together last week.
Earlier this month we published details about the S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program taking place at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai. The five-day event was designed to match up groups of makers with mentors to build assistive devices which help improve the condition of differently-abled people.
The participants were split into eight teams and they came up with some amazing results at the end of the five-day program.
Hands-On: Prosthetic Designs That Go Beyond
Three teams worked on projects based on Bionico – a myoelectric prosthesis
DIY Prosthetic Socket – a Human Machine Interface : [Mahendra Pitav aka Mahen] lost his left arm during the series of train bomb blasts in Mumbai in 2006, which killed 200 and injured over 700 commuters. He uses a prosthetic arm which is essentially a three-pronged claw that is cable activated using his other good arm. While it is useful, the limited functionality restricted him from doing many simple things. The DIY Prosthetic socket team worked with [Mahen] and [Nico Huchet] from MyHumanKit (who lost his right arm in an accident 16 years back), and fabricated a prosthetic forearm for [Mahen] with a modular, 3D printed accessory socket. Embedded within the arm is a rechargeable power source that provides 5V USB output at the socket end to power the devices that are plugged in. It also provides a second port to help recharge mobile phones. Also embedded in the arm was an IR reflective sensor that can be used to sense muscle movements and help trigger specific functions of add-on circuits, for example servos.
Continue reading “Rapidly Prototyping Prosthetics, Braille, and Wheelchairs”
Prostheses are a great help to those who have lost limbs, or who never had them in the first place. Over the past few decades there has been a great deal of research done to make these essential devices more useful, creating prostheses that are capable of movement and more accurately recreating the functions of human body parts. At Georgia Tech, they’re working on just that, with the help of AI.
[Jason Barnes] lost his arm in a work accident, which prevented him from playing the piano the way he used to. The researchers at Georgia Tech worked with him, eventually producing a prosthetic arm that, unlike most, actually has individual finger control. This is achieved through the use of an ultrasound probe, which is used to detect muscle movements elsewhere on his body, with enough detail to allow the control of individual fingers. This is done through a TensorFlow-based neural network which analyses the ultrasound data to determine which finger the user is trying to move. The use of ultrasound was the major breakthrough which made this possible; previous projects have often relied on electromyogram sensors to read muscle impulses but these lack the resolution required.
The prosthesis is nicknamed the “Skywalker arm”, after its similarities to the prostheses seen in the Star Wars films. It’s not [Jason]’s first advanced prosthetic, either – Georgia Tech has also equipped him with an advanced drumming prosthesis. This allows him to use two sticks with a single arm, the second stick using advanced AI routines to drum along with the music in the room.
It’s great to see music being used as a driver to create high-performance prosthetics and push the state of the art forward. We’re sure [Jason] enjoys performing with the new hardware, too. But perhaps you’d like to try something similar, even though you’ve got two hands already? Try this on for size.
Continue reading “AI Prosthesis Is Music To Our Ears”