Hand Exoskeleton Allows Paraplegic Individuals to Eat, Drink

Surjo R. Soekadar, Applied Neurotechnology Laboratory

A groundbreaking new technology could give people affected by quadriplegia new levels of functionality, and unlike other brain-driven exoskeletons, this one doesn’t require brain surgery and implants. No, all this requires is a technologically advanced shower cap.

According to the new journal Science Robotics, researchers at the Applied Neurotechnology Laboratory in Germany were able to provide six subjects with drastically improved control and strength in their hand thanks to a tablet-charged hand exoskeleton. While wearing it, the subjects were able to do basic tasks like signing a document, eating chips, or drinking from a mug with little effort.

The battery-driven brain-machine interface (BMI) employs solid gel electrodes which are attached to a mesh cap that patients wear. The cap then measures a hybrid of electric brain activity and eye movement and translates that into movement via a tablet that controls the robotic hand exoskeleton. It’s not the prettiest setup in the world, but it works wonders.

The six participants, none of whom had used any sort of BMI before testing the hand exoskeleton, needed less than 10 minutes to get used to the system before they were able to start completing basic tasks with markedly more success than they were able to without help from a BMI device.

After using the exoskeleton, the participants said it was reliable, practical, and comfortable.

The researcher behind the project, Surjo R. Soekadar, hopes that the non-invasive BMI he and his team developed can eventually be taken out of a clinical setting and applied to daily life.

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