Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Soft Hand

A soft robotic hand controlled by nerve signals and with tactile feedback

04 September 2021

Soft Hand

The bionic man is sci-fi right? Not any more. State-of-the-art artificial limbs are called neuroprosthetics. They connect with the amputee’s nervous system, usually through the muscles where the limb was severed. In most neuroprosthetics the fingers are mechanical and moved by electronic motors. But this means they are rigid, heavy, and very expensive. Here, a new generation of ‘soft robotics’ are being developed which use pneumatics and hydrogel for movement. This means the prosthetic can be both pliable and lightweight. Furthermore, the fingertips have electronic sensors which are linked back to the nerves, so, the wearer can detect pressure. The image shows a soft robotic hand being used to lift a fragile object, something it’s predecessor would have crushed. And the price? Not six million dollars, in fact it is a fraction of the cost of the mechanical forerunner, making it affordable to all.

Written by Julie Webb

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