The latest generation of multi-grip bionic hands has achieved stunningly good results in laboratory trials. But for all their sophisticated engineering and design wizardry, these devices remain difficult to master on a practical, everyday basis.
To unpack that seeming contradiction, researchers from Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Northwestern University, and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center built an extended at-home practice interval into a recent study. Over a period of eight weeks, the subjects used a high-end bionic hand (the Össur i-Limb) for at least two hours each day, switching between pattern recognition and direct myoelectric control in randomized order. They wore the device while performing a wide range of household tasks, including meal preparation, grooming, housework, shopping, and paperwork.
After the at-home trial, subjects returned to the lab for assessments. The results were eye-popping: With consistent usage, subjects demonstrated broader usage of grips and greater accuracy of control, with particular gains in pattern recognition mode.
“These data provide an insight into how an individual truly translates at home what is set up for them in the laboratory or clinic,” the authors observed. “Since these data were collected in home, they provide a more accurate story of how well EMG signals can be maintained during true daily use.”
The full open-source study is available at IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.