Posts Tagged Hand exoskeleton

[ARTICLE] Design and Preliminary Feasibility Study of a Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Function Assistance in Stroke Survivors – Full Text

Various robotic exoskeletons have been proposed for hand function assistance during activities of daily living (ADL) of stroke survivors. However, traditional exoskeletons involve the use of complex rigid systems that impede the natural movement of joints, and thus reduce the wearability and cause discomfort to the user. The objective of this paper is to design and evaluate a soft robotic glove that is able to provide hand function assistance using fabric-reinforced soft pneumatic actuators. These actuators are made of silicone rubber which has an elastic modulus similar to human tissues. Thus, they are intrinsically soft and compliant. Upon air pressurization, they are able to support finger range of motion (ROM) and generate the desired actuation of the finger joints. In this work, the soft actuators were characterized in terms of their blocked tip force, normal and frictional grip force outputs. Combining the soft actuators and flexible textile materials, a soft robotic glove was developed for grasping assistance during ADL for stroke survivors. The glove was evaluated on five healthy participants for its assisted ROM and grip strength. Pilot test was performed in two stroke survivors to evaluate the efficacy of the glove in assisting functional grasping activities. Our results demonstrated that the actuators designed in this study could generate desired force output at a low air pressure. The glove had a high kinematic transparency and did not affect the active ROM of the finger joints when it was being worn by the participants. With the assistance of the glove, the participants were able to perform grasping actions with sufficient assisted ROM and grip strength, without any voluntary effort. Additionally, pilot test on stroke survivors demonstrated that the patient’s grasping performance improved with the presence and assistance of the glove. Patient feedback questionnaires also showed high level of patient satisfaction and comfort. In conclusion, this paper has demonstrated the possibility of using soft wearable exoskeletons that are more wearable, lightweight, and suitable to be used on a daily basis for hand function assistance of stroke survivors during activities of daily living.

Introduction

The ability to perform basic activities of daily living (ADL) impacts a person’s quality of life and independence (Katz, 1983Andersen et al., 2004). However, an individual’s independence to perform ADLs is jeopardized due to hand motor impairments, which can be observed in patients with neurological disorders such as stroke. In order to improve hand motor functions in terms of strength and range of motion (ROM) (Kutner et al., 2010), stroke survivors undergo rehabilitation programs comprising repetitive practice of simulated ADL tasks (Michaelsen et al., 2006). Normally, patients undergo rehabilitation exercises in a specialized rehabilitation center under the guidance of physiotherapists or occupational therapists. However, due to increasing patient population, it is foreseen that there will be a shortage of physiotherapists to assist in the rehabilitative process. Thus, there will be comparatively less therapy time, which will eventually lead to a slower recovery process for the patients. Over the past decade, technological developments in robotics have facilitated the rehabilitative process and have shown potential to assist patients in their daily life (Maciejasz et al., 2014). One example of such a device is the hand exoskeleton, which is secured around the hand to guide and assist the movement of the encompassed joints. However, due to the complexity of the hand, designing a hand exoskeleton remains a challenging task.

Traditional hand exoskeletons involve the use of rigid linkage-based mechanisms. In this kind of mechanism, rigid components, such as linear actuators, rotary motors, racks, and pinions as well as rigid linkages are normally involved (Worsnopp et al., 2007Rotella et al., 2009Martinez et al., 2010). To assist hand movements that have high degrees of freedom (DOFs), traditional exoskeletons can be incorporated with a substantial number of actuators to achieve the requirement. However, this means that their application is limited due to the increasing bulkiness for higher DOFs. Therefore, these devices are normally restricted in clinical settings and not suitable for performing home therapy. Additionally, their rigidity, weight and constraint on the non-actuated DOFs of the joints pose complications. As a result, the level of comfort and safety of patients is reduced. In view of this, there is an apparent need for the development of exoskeletons that may be used in both clinical and home settings. A lightweight and wearable exoskeleton may allow patients to bring back home to continue daily therapy or to serve as an assistive device for the ADLs.

The development of wearable robotic exoskeletons serves to provide an alternative approach toward addressing this need. Instead of using rigid linkage as an interface between the hand and the actuators, wearable exoskeletons typically utilize flexible materials such as fabric (Sasaki et al., 2004Yap et al., 2016a) and polymer (Kang et al., 2016), driven by compliant actuators such as cables (Sangwook et al., 2014Xiloyannis et al., 2016) and soft inflatable actuators (Polygerinos et al., 2015dYap et al., 2016c). Therefore, they are more compliant and lightweight compared to the rigid linkage-based mechanism. Cable-driven based exoskeletons involve the use of cables that are connected to actuators in the form of electrical motors situated away from the hand (Nilsson et al., 2012Ying and Agrawal, 2012Sangwook et al., 2014Varalta et al., 2014). By providing actuations on both dorsal and palmar sides of the hand, bi-directional cable-driven movements are possible (Kang et al., 2016). These cables mimic the capability of the tendons of the human hand and they are able to transmit the required pulling force to induce finger flexion and extension. However, the friction of the cable, derailment of the tendon, and inaccurate routing of the cable due to different hand dimensions can affect the efficiency of force transmission in the system.

On the other hand, examples of the soft inflatable actuators are McKibben type muscles (Feifei et al., 2006Tadano et al., 2010), sheet-like rubber muscles (Sasaki et al., 2004Kadowaki et al., 2011), and soft elastomeric actuators (Polygerinos et al., 2015b,cYap et al., 2015); amongst which, soft elastomeric actuators have drawn increasing research interest due to their high compliance (Martinez et al., 2013). This approach typically embeds pneumatic chamber networks in elastomeric constructs to achieve different desired motions with pressurized air or water (Martinez et al., 2012). Soft elastomeric actuators are highly customizable. They are able to achieve multiple DOFs and complex motions with a single input, such as fluid pressurization. The design of a wearable hand exoskeleton that utilizes soft elastomeric actuators is usually simple and does not require precise routing for actuation, compared to the cable-driven mechanism. Thus, the design reduces the possibility of misalignment and the setup time. These properties allow the development of hand exoskeletons that are more compliant and wearable, with the ability to provide safe human-robot interaction. Additionally, several studies have demonstrated that compactness and ease of use of an assistive device critically affect its user acceptance (Scherer et al., 20052007). Thus, these exoskeletons provide a greater chance of user acceptance.

Table 1 summarizes the-state-of-art of soft robotic assistive glove driven by inflatable actuators. Several pioneer studies on inflatable assistive glove have been conducted by Sasaki et al. (2004)Kadowaki et al. (2011) and Polygerinos et al. (2015a,b,c). Sasaki et al. have developed a pneumatically actuated power assist glove that utilizes sheet-like curved rubber muscle for hand grasping applications. Polygerinos et al. have designed a hydraulically actuated grip glove that utilizes fiber-reinforced elastomeric actuators that can be mechanically programmed to generate complex motion paths similar to the kinematics of the human finger and thumb. Fiber reinforcement has been proved to be an effective method to constrain the undesired radial expansion of the actuators that does not contribute to effective motion during pressurization. However, this method limits the bending capability of the actuators (Figure S1); as a result, higher pressure is needed to achieve desired bending.

Table 1. Hand assistive exoskeletons driven by inflatable actuators.

This paper presents the design and preliminary feasibility study of a soft robotic glove that utilizes fabric-reinforced soft pneumatic actuators. The intended use of the device is to support the functional tasks during ADLs, such as grasping, for stroke survivors. The objectives of this study were to characterize the soft actuators in terms of their force output and to evaluate the performance of the glove with healthy participants and stroke survivors. The glove was evaluated on five healthy participants in order to determine the ROM of individual finger joints and grip strength achieved with the assistance of the glove. Pilot testing with two stroke survivors was conducted to evaluate the feasibility of the glove in providing grasping assistance for ADL tasks. We hypothesized that with the assistance of the glove, the grasping performance of stroke patients improved.

Specific contributions of this work are listed as follows:

(a) Presented fabric-reinforcement as an alternative method to reinforce soft actuators, which enhanced the bending capability and reduced the required operating pressure of the actuators,

(b) Utilized the inherence compliance of soft actuators and allowed the actuators to achieve multiple motions to support ROM of the human fingers,

(c) Integrated elastic fabric with soft actuators to enhance the extension force for finger extension,

(d) Designed and characterized a soft robotic glove using fabric-reinforced soft actuators with the combination of textile materials, and

(e) Conducted pilot tests with stroke survivors to evaluate the feasibility of the glove in providing functional assistance for ADL tasks.

Design Requirements and Rationale

The design requirements of the glove presented in this paper are similar to those presented by Polygerinos et al. (2015a,b,c) in terms of design considerations, force requirements, and control requirements. For design considerations, weight is the most important design criterion when designing a hand exoskeleton. Previous studies have identified the threshold for acceptable weight of device on the hand, which is in the range of 400–500 g (Aubin et al., 2013Gasser and Goldfarb, 2015). Cable-driven, hydraulic, and pneumatic driven mechanisms are found to be suitable options to meet the criteria. To develop a fully portable system for practical use in home setting, reduction in the weight of the glove as well as the control system is required. The total weight of the control system should not exceed 3 kg (Polygerinos et al., 2015a,b,c). In this work, the criteria for the weight of the glove and control system are defined as: (a) the weight of the glove should be <200 g, and (b) the weight of the control system should be <1.5 kg.

Considering the weight requirement, hydraulic systems are not ideal for this application, as the requirement of a water reservoir for hydraulic control systems and actuation of the actuators with pressurized water will add extra weight to the hand. The second consideration is that the hand exoskeleton should allow fast setup time. Therefore, it is preferable for the hand exoskeleton to fit the hand anatomy rapidly without precise joint alignment. Compared to cable-driven mechanisms, soft pneumatic actuators are found to be more suitable as they allow rapid customization to different finger length. Additionally, they do not require precise joint alignment and cable routing for actuation as the attachment of the soft pneumatic actuators on the glove is usually simple. Therefore, in this work, pneumatic mechanisms were selected. Using pneumatic mechanism, Connelly et al. and Thielbar et al. have developed a pneumatically actuated glove, PneuGlove that is able to provide active extension assistance to each finger while allowing the wearer to flex the finger voluntarily (Connelly et al., 2010Thielbar et al., 2014). The device consists of five air bladders on the palmar side of the glove. Inflation of the air bladders due to air pressurization created an extension force that extends the fingers. However, due to the placement of the air bladders on the palmar side, grasping activities such as palmar and pincer grasps were more difficult. Additionally, this device is limited to stroke survivors who are able to flex their fingers voluntarily.

In this work, the soft robotic glove is designed to provide functional grasping assistance for stroke survivors with muscle weakness and impairments in grasping by promoting finger flexion. While the stroke survivors still preserve the ability to modulate grip force within their limited force range, the grip release (i.e., hand opening) is normally prolonged (Lindberg et al., 2012). Therefore, the glove should assist with grip release by allowing passive finger extension via reinforced elastic components, similar to Saeboflex (Farrell et al., 2007) and HandSOME (Brokaw et al., 2011). The elastic components of these devices pull the fingers to the open hand state due to increased tension during finger flexion. Additionally, the glove should generate the grasping force required to manipulate and counteract the weight of the objects of daily living, which are typically below 1.07 kg (Smaby et al., 2004). Additionally, the actuators in the glove should be controlled individually in order to achieve different grasping configurations required in simulated ADL tasks, such as palmar grasp, pincer grasp, and tripod pinch. For the speed of actuation, the glove should reach full grasping motion in <4 s during simulated ADL tasks and rehabilitation training.

For the actuators, we have recently developed a new type of soft fabric-reinforced pneumatic actuator with a corrugated top fabric layer (Yap et al., 2016a) that could minimize the excessive budging and provide better bending capability compared to fiber-reinforced soft actuators developed in previous studies (Polygerinos et al., 2015c,d). This corrugated top fabric layer allows a small initial radial expansion to initiate bending and then constrains further undesired radial expansion (Figure 1). The detailed comparison of the fiber-reinforced actuators and fabric-reinforced actuators can be found in the Supplementary Material.

 

 

Figure 1. (A) A fabric-reinforced soft actuators with a corrugated fabric layer and an elastic fabric later [Actuator thickness, T= 12 mm, and length, L = 160 mm (Thumb), 170 mm (Little Finger), 180 mm (Index & Ring Fingers), 185 mm (Middle Finger)]. (B) Upon air pressurization, the corrugated fabric layer unfolds and expands due to the inflation of the embedded pneumatic chamber. Radial budging is constrained when the corrugated fabric layer unfolds fully. The elastic fabric elongates during air pressurization and stores elastic energy. The actuator achieves bending and extending motions at the same time. (C) A bending motion is preferred at the finger joints (II, IV, VI). An extending motion is preferred over the bending motion at the finger segments (I, III, V) and the opisthenar (VII).

Continue —>  Frontiers | Design and Preliminary Feasibility Study of a Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Function Assistance in Stroke Survivors | Neuroscience

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[ARTICLE] Hand exoskeleton for rehabilitation therapies with integrated optical force sensor – Full Text

This article presents the design of a hand exoskeleton that features its modularity and the possibility of integrating a force sensor in its frame. The modularity is achieved by dividing the exoskeleton in separate units, each one driving a finger or pair of them. These units or “finger modules” have a single degree of freedom and may be easily attached or removed from the robot frame and human fingers by snap-in fixations. As for the force sensing capability, the device relies on a novel force sensor that uses optical elements to amplify and measure small elastic deformations in the robot structure. This sensor can be fully integrated as a structural element of the finger module. The proposed technology has been validated in two experimental sessions. A first study was performed in a clinical environment in order to check whether the hand exoskeleton (without the integrated force sensor) can successfully move an impaired hand in a “Mirror Therapy” environment. A second study was carried with healthy subjects to check the technical feasibility of using the integrated force sensor as a human–machine interface.

A wide diversity of robotic devices, which can actuate/assist the movements of the human hand, can be found in the current scientific literature.1 Depending on the application, a hand exoskeleton may require uneven features. For example, a rehabilitation-aimed exoskeleton needs to be fairly backdrivable and allows a wide range of movement, so it is flexible enough to perform different rehabilitation exercises.2 In contrast, an assistance exoskeleton must be stiff enough to ensure a firm grasping of objects present during activities of daily living and can sacrifice flexibility of movement in favor of predefined grasping patterns.

These different requirements result on diverse force transmission architectures:

  • Some devices use linkages in order to transmit the force from the actuator to the human joints.35 This is a stiff architecture that requires a proper alignment between kinematic centers of the linkage and human joints, but allows a good control of the hand pose. Due to the flexibility of the design, with the correct sizing, these mechanisms can achieve complex movement patterns with simple actuators.
  • Another extended architecture is the cable-driven glove.68 These are more flexible and simpler alternatives that rely on the own human joints to direct the movement, so they are less prone to uncomfortable poses. In contrast, they require pulleys to achieve high forces and are harder to control in intermediate positions. Additionally, this kind of exoskeletons need a pair of cables in antagonist configuration in order to assist both extension and flexion movements.
  • Finally, some devices use deformable actuators, like pneumatic muscles or shape-memory alloys, attached directly to the hand by means of a glove.9,10 They result in very light and simple devices, but actuators are not placed in the most advantageous place to achieve great forces.

Regarding the exoskeletons based on linkages, especially those which rely on electric actuators, having a measurement of the interaction force between user and device may result an interesting feature in order to ease control tasks and improve safety. In certain devices, different sensor technologies have been implemented, such as torque sensors,11 strain gauges,12 flexion sensors,13 and miniature load cells.14 These sensors may be effective in their respective applications but present some shortcomings for their integration in exoskeletons. In particular, torque sensors measure loads in the motor shaft so, in over-constrained mechanisms, they might not measure all the interaction forces. Strain gauges are complex to fix in the proper place and shorter ones may not perform correctly, so for being usable they require geometries with size comparable to human phalanxes. Another miniature sensors, like load cells or force-sensitive resistors, normally can measure force in only one sense (compression or extension) and those that can measure both directions are too big for the scale of the human hand.

Research background and objectives

In our previous paper,15 we studied the feasibility of using multimodal systems in order to assist post-stroke patients during the execution of rehabilitation therapies with real objects. In this context, we evaluated the suitability of using a hand exoskeleton device,16 such as the aforementioned ones, for assisting an impaired person during the grasping of objects present in activities of daily living. This device has experienced substantial improvements with respect to the previous design in order to be able to interact safely with disabled users.

In that previous experimentation, the electromyographic (EMG) signal of the forearm muscles was proposed as a method to estimate user’s intention and consequently trigger the open/close movement of the hand exoskeleton. This method proved to be effective, but it can be used only for users with a coherent and relatively strong EMG signal, which might not be the case for most patients.17 From these results, there is a need for additional technologies that can detect the movement intention of the subject in order to cope with a wider range of user profiles.

Despite that the presented device will also be used in assistive context, the objective of the exposed research is to show whether the proposed improvements of the hand exoskeleton, including a miniature optical force sensor, allow its use in a real rehabilitation environment. Special attention will be given to the development of a force sensing method in order to measure the human–robot interaction forces and therefore to estimate user’s intention in rehabilitation scenarios.

Hand exoskeleton

Among the different existing architectures, we have decided to implement an exoskeleton based on the linkage approximation, since we consider that this is the most flexible solution in order to achieve a good compromise between the requirements of both rehabilitation and assistance scenarios. The motion transmission is based on a bar mechanism that allows the possibility of coupling the motion of phalanxes, so a natural hand movement is achievable using only one active degree of freedom per finger. Additionally, bars can transmit both tensile and compressive loads so the same mechanism is able to perform extension (most demanding movement in rehabilitation) and flexion (mandatory for assistance) movement of the fingers.

In detail, the designed exoskeleton is composed by three identical finger modules that drive index, middle and the pair formed by ring and little fingers. Each finger module has a single degree of freedom actively driven by a linear actuator. Unlike many of the referenced exoskeletons, due to the inherent uncertainty introduced by the human–exoskeleton interface (modeled as a slide along the phalanx longitudinal axis in Figure 1), we have decided not to rely on the human finger as the element that closes the kinematic chain. Conversely, we have adopted an approach similar to the one adopted by Ho et al.5 This way, adding a pair of circular guides whose centers are coincident with the joints of a reference finger, the mechanism is kinematically determinate without needing the human finger. Ho’s device uses slots with flange bearings to implement the guides; this may result effective but requires precision machining and miniature elements to achieve a compact solution. In contrast, we have designed a double-edged guide that slides between four V-shaped bearings (Figure 2). These elements allow the optimization of the required space and may be easily manufactured by prototyping technologies or plastic molding. To make up for the additional constraints, we have decided to actuate only medial and proximal phalanxes.

 

figure

Figure 1. Kinematics scheme of the finger linkage attached to the human finger. Metacarpophalangeal (MCP), proximal interphalangeal (PIP), and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints have been modeled as revolute joints. Additionally, the interface between the module and the phalanxes has been modeled by means of slide.

 

figure

Figure 2. Left: Finger module represented in its extreme positions. Right: Detailed view of the designed circular guide to minimize mechanical clearances with minimum friction.

 

Continue —>  Hand exoskeleton for rehabilitation therapies with integrated optical force sensor – Jorge A Díez, Andrea Blanco, José María Catalán, Francisco J Badesa, Luis Daniel Lledó, Nicolas García-Aracil, 2018

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[Abstract] A Dual-cable Hand Exoskeleton System for Virtual Reality

Abstract

In this paper, a hand exoskeleton system for virtual reality is proposed. As a virtual reality interface for the hand, a wearable system should be able to measure the finger joint angles and apply force feedback to the fingers at the same time with a simple and light structure. In the proposed system, two different cable mechanisms are applied to achieve such requirements; three finger joint angles in the direction of the flexion/extension (F/E) motion are measured by a tendon-inspired cable mechanism and another cable is used for force feedback to the finger for one degree of freedom (DOF) actuation per finger. As two different types of cables are used, the system is termed a dual-cable hand exoskeleton system. Using the measured finger joint angles and motor current, the cable-driven actuation system applies the desired force to the fingers. That is, when the desired force is zero, the motor position is controlled to follow the finger posture while maintaining the appropriate cable slack; when the desired force needs to be applied, the motor current is controlled to generate the desired force. To achieve a smooth transition between the two control strategies, the control inputs were linearly integrated; and the desired motor position was generated to prevent a sudden motor rotation. A prototype of the proposed system was manufactured with a weight of 320g, a volume of 13 × 23 × 8cm3, maximum force up to 5 N. The proposed control algorithms were verified by experiments with virtual reality applications.

 

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[ARTICLE] Design and Preliminary Feasibility Study of a Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Function Assistance in Stroke Survivors – Full Text

Various robotic exoskeletons have been proposed for hand function assistance during activities of daily living (ADL) of stroke survivors. However, traditional exoskeletons involve the use of complex rigid systems that impede the natural movement of joints, and thus reduce the wearability and cause discomfort to the user. The objective of this paper is to design and evaluate a soft robotic glove that is able to provide hand function assistance using fabric-reinforced soft pneumatic actuators. These actuators are made of silicone rubber which has an elastic modulus similar to human tissues. Thus, they are intrinsically soft and compliant. Upon air pressurization, they are able to support finger range of motion (ROM) and generate the desired actuation of the finger joints. In this work, the soft actuators were characterized in terms of their blocked tip force, normal and frictional grip force outputs. Combining the soft actuators and flexible textile materials, a soft robotic glove was developed for grasping assistance during ADL for stroke survivors. The glove was evaluated on five healthy participants for its assisted ROM and grip strength. Pilot test was performed in two stroke survivors to evaluate the efficacy of the glove in assisting functional grasping activities. Our results demonstrated that the actuators designed in this study could generate desired force output at a low air pressure. The glove had a high kinematic transparency and did not affect the active ROM of the finger joints when it was being worn by the participants. With the assistance of the glove, the participants were able to perform grasping actions with sufficient assisted ROM and grip strength, without any voluntary effort. Additionally, pilot test on stroke survivors demonstrated that the patient’s grasping performance improved with the presence and assistance of the glove. Patient feedback questionnaires also showed high level of patient satisfaction and comfort. In conclusion, this paper has demonstrated the possibility of using soft wearable exoskeletons that are more wearable, lightweight, and suitable to be used on a daily basis for hand function assistance of stroke survivors during activities of daily living.

Introduction

The ability to perform basic activities of daily living (ADL) impacts a person’s quality of life and independence (Katz, 1983Andersen et al., 2004). However, an individual’s independence to perform ADLs is jeopardized due to hand motor impairments, which can be observed in patients with neurological disorders such as stroke. In order to improve hand motor functions in terms of strength and range of motion (ROM) (Kutner et al., 2010), stroke survivors undergo rehabilitation programs comprising repetitive practice of simulated ADL tasks (Michaelsen et al., 2006). Normally, patients undergo rehabilitation exercises in a specialized rehabilitation center under the guidance of physiotherapists or occupational therapists. However, due to increasing patient population, it is foreseen that there will be a shortage of physiotherapists to assist in the rehabilitative process. Thus, there will be comparatively less therapy time, which will eventually lead to a slower recovery process for the patients. Over the past decade, technological developments in robotics have facilitated the rehabilitative process and have shown potential to assist patients in their daily life (Maciejasz et al., 2014). One example of such a device is the hand exoskeleton, which is secured around the hand to guide and assist the movement of the encompassed joints. However, due to the complexity of the hand, designing a hand exoskeleton remains a challenging task.

Traditional hand exoskeletons involve the use of rigid linkage-based mechanisms. In this kind of mechanism, rigid components, such as linear actuators, rotary motors, racks, and pinions as well as rigid linkages are normally involved (Worsnopp et al., 2007Rotella et al., 2009Martinez et al., 2010). To assist hand movements that have high degrees of freedom (DOFs), traditional exoskeletons can be incorporated with a substantial number of actuators to achieve the requirement. However, this means that their application is limited due to the increasing bulkiness for higher DOFs. Therefore, these devices are normally restricted in clinical settings and not suitable for performing home therapy. Additionally, their rigidity, weight and constraint on the non-actuated DOFs of the joints pose complications. As a result, the level of comfort and safety of patients is reduced. In view of this, there is an apparent need for the development of exoskeletons that may be used in both clinical and home settings. A lightweight and wearable exoskeleton may allow patients to bring back home to continue daily therapy or to serve as an assistive device for the ADLs.

The development of wearable robotic exoskeletons serves to provide an alternative approach toward addressing this need. Instead of using rigid linkage as an interface between the hand and the actuators, wearable exoskeletons typically utilize flexible materials such as fabric (Sasaki et al., 2004Yap et al., 2016a) and polymer (Kang et al., 2016), driven by compliant actuators such as cables (Sangwook et al., 2014Xiloyannis et al., 2016) and soft inflatable actuators (Polygerinos et al., 2015dYap et al., 2016c). Therefore, they are more compliant and lightweight compared to the rigid linkage-based mechanism. Cable-driven based exoskeletons involve the use of cables that are connected to actuators in the form of electrical motors situated away from the hand (Nilsson et al., 2012Ying and Agrawal, 2012Sangwook et al., 2014Varalta et al., 2014). By providing actuations on both dorsal and palmar sides of the hand, bi-directional cable-driven movements are possible (Kang et al., 2016). These cables mimic the capability of the tendons of the human hand and they are able to transmit the required pulling force to induce finger flexion and extension. However, the friction of the cable, derailment of the tendon, and inaccurate routing of the cable due to different hand dimensions can affect the efficiency of force transmission in the system.

On the other hand, examples of the soft inflatable actuators are McKibben type muscles (Feifei et al., 2006Tadano et al., 2010), sheet-like rubber muscles (Sasaki et al., 2004Kadowaki et al., 2011), and soft elastomeric actuators (Polygerinos et al., 2015b,cYap et al., 2015); amongst which, soft elastomeric actuators have drawn increasing research interest due to their high compliance (Martinez et al., 2013). This approach typically embeds pneumatic chamber networks in elastomeric constructs to achieve different desired motions with pressurized air or water (Martinez et al., 2012). Soft elastomeric actuators are highly customizable. They are able to achieve multiple DOFs and complex motions with a single input, such as fluid pressurization. The design of a wearable hand exoskeleton that utilizes soft elastomeric actuators is usually simple and does not require precise routing for actuation, compared to the cable-driven mechanism. Thus, the design reduces the possibility of misalignment and the setup time. These properties allow the development of hand exoskeletons that are more compliant and wearable, with the ability to provide safe human-robot interaction. Additionally, several studies have demonstrated that compactness and ease of use of an assistive device critically affect its user acceptance (Scherer et al., 20052007). Thus, these exoskeletons provide a greater chance of user acceptance.

Table 1 summarizes the-state-of-art of soft robotic assistive glove driven by inflatable actuators. Several pioneer studies on inflatable assistive glove have been conducted by Sasaki et al. (2004)Kadowaki et al. (2011) and Polygerinos et al. (2015a,b,c). Sasaki et al. have developed a pneumatically actuated power assist glove that utilizes sheet-like curved rubber muscle for hand grasping applications. Polygerinos et al. have designed a hydraulically actuated grip glove that utilizes fiber-reinforced elastomeric actuators that can be mechanically programmed to generate complex motion paths similar to the kinematics of the human finger and thumb. Fiber reinforcement has been proved to be an effective method to constrain the undesired radial expansion of the actuators that does not contribute to effective motion during pressurization. However, this method limits the bending capability of the actuators (Figure S1); as a result, higher pressure is needed to achieve desired bending.

Table 1. Hand assistive exoskeletons driven by inflatable actuators.

Continue —> Frontiers | Design and Preliminary Feasibility Study of a Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Function Assistance in Stroke Survivors | Neuroscience

Figure 1. (A) A fabric-reinforced soft actuators with a corrugated fabric layer and an elastic fabric later [Actuator thickness, T = 12 mm, and length, L = 160 mm (Thumb), 170 mm (Little Finger), 180 mm (Index & Ring Fingers), 185 mm (Middle Finger)]. (B) Upon air pressurization, the corrugated fabric layer unfolds and expands due to the inflation of the embedded pneumatic chamber. Radial budging is constrained when the corrugated fabric layer unfolds fully. The elastic fabric elongates during air pressurization and stores elastic energy. The actuator achieves bending and extending motions at the same time. (C) A bending motion is preferred at the finger joints (II, IV, VI). An extending motion is preferred over the bending motion at the finger segments (I, III, V) and the opisthenar (VII).

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[Conference paper] FEX a Fingers Extending eXoskeleton for Rehabilitation and Regaining Mobility – Abstract+References

 

Abstract

This paper presents the design process of an exoskeleton for executing human fingers’ extension movement for the rehabilitation procedures and as an active orthosis purposes. The Fingers Extending eXoskeleton (FEX) is a serial, under-actuated mechanism capable of executing fingers’ extension. The proposed solution is easily adaptable to any finger length or position of the joints. FEX is based on the state-of-art FingerSpine serial system. Straightening force is transmitted from a DC motor to the exoskeleton structures with use of pulled tendons. In trial tests the device showed good usability and functionality. The final prototype is a result of almost half a year of the development process described in this paper.

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Source: FEX a Fingers Extending eXoskeleton for Rehabilitation and Regaining Mobility | SpringerLink

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[ARTICLE] Advanced Myoelectric Control for Robotic Hand-Assisted Training: Outcome from a Stroke Patient – Full Text

A hand exoskeleton driven by myoelectric pattern recognition was designed for stroke rehabilitation. It detects and recognizes the user’s motion intent based on electromyography (EMG) signals, and then helps the user to accomplish hand motions in real time. The hand exoskeleton can perform six kinds of motions, including the whole hand closing/opening, tripod pinch/opening, and the “gun” sign/opening. A 52-year-old woman, 8 months after stroke, made 20×2-hour visits over 10 weeks to participate in robot-assisted hand training. Though she was unable to move her fingers on her right hand before the training, EMG activities could be detected on her right forearm. In each visit, she took 4×10-minute robot-assisted training sessions, in which she repeated the aforementioned six motion patterns assisted by our intent-driven hand exoskeleton. After the training, her grip force increased from 1.5 kg to 2.7 kg, her pinch force increased from 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg, her score of Box & Block test increased from 3 to 7, her score of Fugl-Meyer (Part C) increased from 0 to 7, her hand function increased from Stage 1 to Stage 2 in Chedoke-McMaster assessment. The results demonstrate the feasibility of robot-assisted training driven by myoelectric pattern recognition after stroke.

Introduction

Robot-assisted upper limb training is considered to be more efficient (1) and economic (2) than conventional therapy in neurorehabilitation. Controlling the robot with the user’s own electromyography (EMG) signals connects the user’s intended motion and his actual movements. It can therefore enhance therapeutic effects and promote motor learning (35). Various EMG-driven robots and exoskeletons have been developed for neurorehabilitation (68), primarily based on one-to-one mapping, which typically maps one channel of EMG signal to a corresponding single degree-of-freedom (DOF) or variable such as speed and torque using a conventional “on-off” or proportional strategy. Robots based on such control strategy work well on training joints with only a few DOFs such as elbow and wrist. However, a human hand has up to 27 DOFs (9) and is controlled by complex temporal and spatial coordination of multiple muscles. It is therefore not feasible to regain hand dexterity through conventional control strategies. Myoelectric pattern-recognition techniques have been developed to extract motion intentions from EMG signals (10, 11). The extracted intentions can then be used to control a multiple-DOF robot such as a prosthesis (12). Previous studies have also shown that motion intentions can still be extracted after neurological impairment (1315). We therefore developed an intent-driven hand training system. The system employs an exoskeleton hand, which is controlled by myoelectric pattern recognition. As soon as the user’s intention is detected (usually within 250 ms), the system is able to assist to accomplish the intended motions (16).

Case Report

Subject

A 52-year-old woman participated in this robotic hand-assisted training 8 months after stroke. She was right-handed before stroke and had hemiplegia on her right side after her stroke. She was able to walk independently with an ankle foot orthosis but had difficulties in moving her right arm. Her fingers were flexed naturally. She was unable to move any of the fingers on her right hand, but EMG signals were able to be recorded from her forearm. Her Fugl–Meyer score (Part A–D, max 66) was 16, with a 0 in Part C (Hand, max 14). She had no pain when her whole hand was passively opened or closed. She did not receive any other hand or upper limb therapies while participating in this study. During her visits, she was able to understand and follow all the instructions.

Exoskeleton Hand

The exoskeleton hand, Hand of Hope (Rehab-Robotics, Hong Kong), was used in this study to help the subject move her hand (Figure 1). The exoskeleton hand has five individual fingers. Each finger is actuated by a linear actuator that can pull and push linearly. The mechanical design of the fingers converts these linear movements into the rotations of a virtual metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint and a virtual proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. Both joints rotate together to help the hand perform closing and opening movements (7). The motion range is 55° and 65° for MCP and PIP joints, respectively. The subject’s palm and five fingers are fixed to the exoskeleton hand with Velcro belts. Each finger can be bent or straightened individually by the exoskeleton hand. The exoskeleton hand stands on a brace, which also supports the subject’s forearm, so that the subject can be totally relaxed when attached to the exoskeleton. The exoskeleton hand used in this study can perform six different motion patterns, including hand closing (HC); hand opening (HO); thumb, index, and middle fingers closing (TIMC or tripod pinch); thumb, index, and middle fingers opening; middle, ring, and little fingers closing (MRLC or the “gun” sign); and middle, ring, and little fingers opening. The exoskeleton hand can perform HC, TIMC, or MRLC when it is open. However, after performing any one from these three patterns, it can only return to the original open status (e.g., there is no direct way from the “tripod pinch” to the “gun” sign).

Figure 1. Training with the exoskeleton hand driven by myoelectric pattern recognition.

Continue —> Frontiers | Advanced Myoelectric Control for Robotic Hand-Assisted Training: Outcome from a Stroke Patient | Stroke

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[ARTICLE] An Original Classification of Rehabilitation Hand Exoskeletons – Full Text PDF

Abstract

The hand is an organ of grasping as well as sensation, communication, and fine dexterity. Since the 80’s, many researchers have been attempting to develop robotic devices aiming at replicating the functions of the human hand in the fields of industrial robotics, tele-manipulation, humanoid robotics, and upper limb prosthetics.

A special kind of robotic hand is the hand exoskeleton, that is directly attached to the human hand with the aim of providing assistance in motion/power generation. Hand exoskeletons are increasingly widespread in robot-based rehabilitation of patients suffering from different pathologies (in particular neurological diseases).

This paper reviews the state-of-the-art of hand exoskeletons developed for rehabilitation purposes and proposes a new systematic classification according to three key points related to the kinematic architecture: (i) mobility of a single finger exoskeleton, (ii) number of physical connections between the exoskeleton and the human finger phalanges, and (iii) way of integration of the exoskeleton mechanism with the human parts.

The discussion based upon the classification can be helpful to understand the reasons of adopting certain solutions for specific applications and the advantages and drawbacks of different designs, based on the work already done by other researchers.

The final purpose of the proposed classification is then to provide guidelines useful for the design of new hand exoskeletons on the basis of a systematic analysis. As an example, the solution designed, manufactured and clinically tested by the authors is reported.

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[ARTICLE] Vision-Based Pose Estimation for Robot-Mediated Hand Telerehabilitation – Full Text PDF/HTML

Abstract

Vision-based Pose Estimation (VPE) represents a non-invasive solution to allow a smooth and natural interaction between a human user and a robotic system, without requiring complex calibration procedures. Moreover, VPE interfaces are gaining momentum as they are highly intuitive, such that they can be used from untrained personnel (e.g., a generic caregiver) even in delicate tasks as rehabilitation exercises.

In this paper, we present a novel master–slave setup for hand telerehabilitation with an intuitive and simple interface for remote control of a wearable hand exoskeleton, named HX. While performing rehabilitative exercises, the master unit evaluates the 3D position of a human operator’s hand joints in real-time using only a RGB-D camera, and commands remotely the slave exoskeleton. Within the slave unit, the exoskeleton replicates hand movements and an external grip sensor records interaction forces, that are fed back to the operator-therapist, allowing a direct real-time assessment of the rehabilitative task.

Experimental data collected with an operator and six volunteers are provided to show the feasibility of the proposed system and its performances. The results demonstrate that, leveraging on our system, the operator was able to directly control volunteers’ hands movements.

1. Introduction

Traditional rehabilitation is performed in a one-to-one fashion, namely one therapist (or sometimes several) working with one patient, leading to high personnel and management costs, especially for demanding patients such as those with brain or post surgery injuries. Due to the high hospitalization costs, all these patients are leaving clinics and returning to their homes sooner than in the past [1], when their rehabilitative program is not yet finished. These patients can greatly benefit from a telerehabilitation equipment, which is able to provide remote assistance and relief without the burden of going to the clinic on a daily basis. On the other hand, therapists can surely benefit from non-invasive systems capable of acquiring information about their movements which are then sent to the patient (or even to many patients), possibly in real-time to allow a direct control; modern vision-based techniques offer interesting sparks in such way. The possibility to provide high quality rehabilitation programs regardless of patients physical location and leveraging on vision is thus certainly attractive.

Continue —> Sensors | Free Full-Text | Vision-Based Pose Estimation for Robot-Mediated Hand Telerehabilitation | HTML

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Figure 2. HX while holding the sensorized object in a pinch (a) and lateral (b) grasping exercise. The DoMs of the HX device are: (1) the flexion/extension of the index MCP; (2) of the index P-DIP (under-actuated); (3) of the thumb MCP and IP (under-actuated) and (4) the CMC opposition. Other Degrees-of-Freedom (DoF), like thumb intra/extra rotation and the index abduction/adduction, are passive [29]. The HX is used to grasp the sensorized object, whose squeezable soft-pads provide force information on the basis of a optoelectronic deformation transduction [34].

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[Abstract] A novel motion-coupling design for a jointless tendon-driven finger exoskeleton for rehabilitation

Abstract

We have designed a new jointless tendon-driven exoskeleton plan for the human hand that provides a correct and stable motion sequence while keeping the structure lightweight, compact and portable. Before the development, anatomy analysis and a kinematics study of the human finger were performed, and bending angle relationships among the metacarpophalangeal (MCP), proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints were analyzed. Detailed implementation is discussed, including the basic theory of the joint motion coupling method, related formula derivations and mechanical design of an experimental device. An experimental setup was built, and series of experiments was conducted to examine and evaluate the developed joint motion coupling plan.The results indicated that the new plan worked correctly as desired, that an incorrect finger motion sequence did not occur and that the new coupled tendon driven plan can drive finger bending as naturally as a human. The compactness and light weight of the entire structure of the device means that its parts can be arranged for a hand glove or fingerstall more easily than most bar-linkage exoskeleton structures.

 

Source: A novel motion-coupling design for a jointless tendon-driven finger exoskeleton for rehabilitation

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[ARTICLE] An index finger exoskeleton with series elastic actuation for rehabilitation: Design, control and performance characterization

Abstract

Rehabilitation of the hands is critical for the restoration of independence in activities of daily living for individuals exhibiting disabilities of the upper extremities. There is initial evidence that robotic devices with force-control-based strategies can help in effective rehabilitation of human limbs. However, to the best of our knowledge, none of the existing hand exoskeletons allow for accurate force or torque control.

In this work, we present a novel index finger exoskeleton with Bowden-cable-based series elastic actuation allowing for bidirectional torque control of the device with high backdrivability and low reflected inertia. We present exoskeleton and finger joint torque controllers along with an optimization-based offline parameter estimator. Finally, we carry out tests with the developed prototype to characterize its kinematics, dynamics, and controller performance.

Results show that the device preserves the characteristics of natural motion of finger and can be controlled to achieve both exoskeleton and finger joint torque control. Finally, dynamic transparency tests show that the device can be controlled to offer minimal resistance to finger motion. Beyond the present application of the device as a hand rehabilitation exoskeleton, it has the potential to be used as a haptic device for teleoperation.

Source: An index finger exoskeleton with series elastic actuation for rehabilitation: Design, control and performance characterization

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