Italian researchers have unveiled a new robotic hand. This hand, as per the reports, allows users to grip objects more naturally. It also features a simpler mechanical design that will lower the price significantly. The design of the Hennes robotic hand compared with other such myoelectric prosthetics is characterized by sensors that react to electrical signals from the brain to the muscles, according to researcher Lorenzo De Michieli. He helped develop the hand in a lab backed by the INAIL state workers’ compensation prosthetic center and the Italian Institute of Technology. The Hennes has a single motor that controls all the five fingers, making it lighter, more able to adapt to the shape of objects, and cheaper.
“This can be considered low-cost,” according to De Michieli, “because we reduce to the minimum the mechanical complexity to achieve, at the same time, a very effective grasp, and a very effective behavior of the prosthesis”. They have further maximized the effectiveness of the prosthetics and minimized the mechanical complexity.
They plan to bring it to the European market in 2019, with a target price of around 10,000 euros ($11,900), which is about 30 percent below market prices currently. Italian researchers say the Hennes weighs about the same as a human hand.
Several labs worldwide are working on improvements to the myoelectric prosthetic. While some of these labs are working on improving how the nervous system communicates with the prosthetic, others are focusing on touch. “Each group is giving baby steps to help the field move forward,” Jayaraman said.
Cost remains a barrier for advanced prosthetic limbs. According to Robert Gaunt, an assistant professor of rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh, another barrier is that the more complex motorized systems tend to be “heavy and fragile. They also get hard to control”. The Hennes design “could make a difference. I think it is a clever approach and one that could see significant benefits for people with missing hands,” he said. Limitations remain in the inability to control individual fingers for tasks like typing on a computer or playing the piano. “But the vast majority of what many of us do with our hands every day is simply grasping objects,” Gaunt said.