Towards dexterous robotic hand neuroprostheses

Project description

The electrical signals from the stump of an amputated hand have been used for years to control simple prosthetics with some grasping capability, but a new project is attempting to design a mechanical hand with unprecedented levels of functionality.

The current abilities of prosthetics disappoint orthopedic surgeon Professor Peter Choong, from Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital. He has assembled a team to re-imagine possibilities for a prosthetic hand and take a giant leap towards more dexterous bionic technology.

The project is working on every facet of the problem of connecting a human to a machine – from the electrodes to access electrical signals in the stump to the design of a machine capable of subtle tactile movement and feedback to control grasp strength.

Central to the project is Associate Professor Denny Oetomo, a robotics researcher from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

He says the design problem is complex, with several interrelated challenges. This includes re-envisioning how the stump, electrodes and prosthetic fit together to maximise signal relay, through to designing a hand mechanism that incorporates tactile sensors to allow the hand autonomous control when handling objects.

Then there’s the question of whether the prosthetic needs to look like a human hand, Associate Professor Oetomo says. This may be a very different to the current approaches, but should be considered, given that the optimal design for a prosthetic may not look like a human hand.

Advances are expected to be made in incremental steps and involve the participation of amputees directly.

Associate Professor Oetomo is inviting engagement with patients’ creativity and willingness to push the boundaries on what is possible. The design should not limit the technology and the possible skill development in the human–prosthetic interface.

We want a solution that behaves like a limb, not a tool, he says. We have a design in mind and the prospects are very exciting.

Researchers

  • Tansu Alpcan, Associate Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • James Bailey, Professor, Computing and Information Systems
  • Michael Cantoni, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Airlie Chapman, Mechanical Engineering
  • Vincent Crocher, Mechanical Engineering
  • Peter Dower, Associate Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Robin Evans, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Farhad Farokhi, McKenzie Research Fellow, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Nir Lipovetzky, Research Fellow, Computing and Information Systems
  • Jonathan Manton, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Chris Manzie, Professor & MIDAS Director, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Iven Mareels, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Timothy Miller, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) & MIDAS Deputy Director, Computing & Information Systems
  • Girish Nair, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Dragan Nešić, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Denny Oetomo, Associate Professor & MIDAS Deputy Director, Mechanical Engineering
  • Marimuthu Palaniswami, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Adrian Pearce, Associate Professor, Computing & Information Systems
  • Ben Rubinstein, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Computing & Information Systems
  • Dongryeol Ryu, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Infrastructure Engineering
  • Len Sciacca, Enterprise Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Iman Shames, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) & MIDAS Deputy Director, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Rohan Shekhar, Research Fellow, Mechanical Engineering
  • Liz Sonenberg, Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Collaboration), Computing & Information Systems
  • Ying Tan, Associate Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Erik Weyer, Professor, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Stephan Winter, Professor, Infrastructure Engineering

Partners

St Vincent’s Hospital

Research programs

Human-centric autonomous systems