Assistant Professor Raye Yeow from NUS’s department of Biomedical Engineering and his research team from National University of Singapore (NUS) have jointly come up with a new innovation, called the EsoGlove.
It is used as a smart rehabilitation device to assist patients who have lost their hand functions due to injuries or nerve-related conditions.
This new technology is lightweight and soft. It has sensors to detect muscle signals and is attuned to the natural movements of the human hand. This thus helps to reduce discomfort and risk of injury.
In addition, it features being compact and portable would greatly aid patients who are recuperating at home or patients who are bedridden to perform rehabilitation exercises with greater comfort and ease.
What sets it apart from mediocre rigid and robotic devices, would be that the EsoGlove is uniquely made entirely of soft components and does not require complicated mechanical setups. It does not constrain the finger’s natural movement, unlike conventional devices which makes use of stiff links and joints.
“The main body of the glove is made of fabric, with soft actuators embedded. It also has adjustable Velcro straps to cater to different hand sizes,” Assistant Prof Yeow said.
It is connected to a pump-valve control system that modulates the air pressure which then directs the soft actuators. When the actuators are pressurised by air, they apply distributed forces along the length of the finger to promote finger movements.
EsoGlove also uses an intuitive control mechanism that involves the coupling of electromyography and radio-frequency identification technologies. With this feature, it interprets a patient’s intent to perform a hand action on a particular object and therefore move their fingers intuitively to accomplish the task.
“As the soft actuators in the EsoGlove are made from non-ferromagnetic materials, they are suitable for use in functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. We hope that the robotic glove can contribute towards investing the brain’s activity in relation to motor performance during hand rehabilitation, and unravel the functional effects of soft rehabilitation robotics on brain stimulation,” added Mr Yap, who is also from the NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering.
Following which, Asst Prof Yeow and his team are planning to start pilot clinical studies at the National University Hospital (NUH) in February 2016.This is to validate the device performance and collect feedback about it so as to further refine the device.