Imagine the scene : one day, you wake up in a hospital without remembering what happened and you discover with horror that your left hand is no longer there. The doctors say that you had a car accident you lost your hand in the accident. After a slow and painful recovery from the wound, you start looking for solutions at least partially to restore your daily functions, because you realize that 99% of what surrounds us was designed to be handled by hand. Also, robotics and rehabilitation medicine can help you.
On the suggestion of a friend, you venture into the nearest rehabilitation clinic, which is enrolled in a free state-funded program for disabled upper limbs and they have a mechatronic prosthesis for the hands and wrists. The prosthesis connects seamlessly and discreetly to your body, does exactly what you want and it is very comfortable. However, sometimes, at the beginning of the program, it will fail to make a fist for example. In this case, you close your fist and your prosthesis will learn what a fist will look like. After three months of practice, you have basically forgotten that it is a prosthesis. It feels like a part of your body and it’s like you’ve never had an accident.
And now, for the sad reality : every year, 1 900 new limb amputations occur in Europe, maintaining a population of around 90 000 disabled people. While multi-fingered hand prostheses first appeared on the clinical market about eight years ago, there is little hope of having a control system that will allow patients to do the things I outlined here. The situation becomes even more difficult in case of proximal amputation, for example if you have lost the whole arm, including the shoulder.
The long-term perspective
With the advent of outlets made of adaptive biocompatible materials and integrated multimodal sensors, progressive learning could be the key to improving the acceptance of mechatronic prostheses in amputees. The current drop-out rates are surprisingly high and there is no established rehabilitation program in the world, as described at the beginning of this article.
In the medium and long term, we will be able to sell prostheses more easily and they will be more accessible for everyone. Also, they will never stop adapting to the patient and will push them to obtain optimal synergy, with a minimum of supervision from the patients. We want prostheses to be as independent as possible.
Bonus: 3D Scanning Technologies
To develop prosthetics that work very well and that fits the condition of each patient, practitioners will need medical technology software to do tests and compare types of prostheses. Msoft offers a product allowing his customers to make very professional scans in a few steps.You can also measure, prepare and analyze your results.This is the quick and easy way to get a 3D file that you can optimize, adapt, mill or print in 3D. In short, whatever your scanning project, Msoft will do the work for you.
Claudio Castellini. Robotics and AI. Frontiers blog. 2018. Living with a prothesis that learns : A case-study in translational medicine