New e-glove gives prosthetic hand users sense of touch and temperature

4 Sep 2019

Image: Purdue University/Chris Adam

Someone using a prosthetic hand could soon be able to experience the sense of touch thanks to a new electronic glove.

In order to provide a greater quality of life for people with hand amputations, researchers have revealed a breakthrough that could restore at least some aspects of a typical hand back to them.

In a paper published to NPG Asia Materials, a team comprised of scientists from Purdue University, the University of Georgia and the University of Texas revealed the development of an electronic glove. This glove is worn over a prosthetic hand and provides the user with human-like softness, warmth, appearance and sensory perception.

The e-glove uses thin, flexible electronic sensors and miniaturised silicon-based circuit chips on a commercially available nitrile glove. It is then connected to a specially designed wristwatch that allows for real-time display of sensory data and remote transmission for post-data processing.

System benefits

“The e-glove is configured with a stretchable form of multimodal sensors to collect various information such as pressure, temperature, humidity and electrophysiological biosignals, while simultaneously providing realistic human hand-like softness, appearance and even warmth,” said Chi Hwan Lee, who led the research team.

One of the benefits of this system is that it is relatively cheap to produce and can be manufactured in high volume, unlike other systems that use mind, voice and muscle control embedded within the prosthetic. Additionally, these emerging technologies do not provide the human-like features that the e-glove provides, Lee added.

The team is now seeking to bring the device to clinical trials and reach out to experts in the field of prosthetics to validate its use and optimise the system further.

“My group is devoted to developing various wearable biomedical devices, and my ultimate goal is to bring these technologies out of the lab and help many people in need. This research represents my continued efforts in this context,” Lee said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic