A new electronic glove could cover a prosthetic hand to provide humanlike softness, warmth, appearance, and sensory perception, such as the ability to sense pressure, temperature, and hydration.
While a conventional prosthetic hand helps restore mobility, the new e-glove advances the technology by offering the realistic human hand-like features in daily activities and life roles, with the potential to improve their mental health and well-being by helping them more naturally integrate into social contexts.
The e-glove uses thin, flexible electronic sensors and miniaturized silicon-based circuit chips on the commercially available nitrile glove. The e-glove is connected to a specially designed wristwatch, allowing for real-time display of sensory data and remote transmission to the user for post-data processing.
“We developed a novel concept of the soft-packaged, sensor-instrumented e-glove built on a commercial nitrile glove, allowing it to seamlessly fit on arbitrary hand shapes,” says Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering at Purdue University.
“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.”
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Lee and his team hope that the appearance and capabilities of the e-glove will improve the well-being of prosthetic hand users by allowing them to feel more comfortable in social contexts. The glove is available in different skin tone colors, and has lifelike fingerprints and artificial fingernails.
“The prospective end user could be any prosthetic hand users who have felt uncomfortable wearing current prosthetic hands, especially in many social contexts,” Lee says.
The fabrication process of the e-glove is cost-effective and manufacturable in high volume, making it an affordable option for users unlike other emerging technologies with mind, voice, and muscle control embedded within the prosthetic at a high cost. Additionally, these emerging technologies do not provide the humanlike features that the e-glove provides.
“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 says.
Lee and coauthor Min Ku Kim, an engineering doctoral student, have worked to patent the technology with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The team is seeking partners to collaborate in clinical trials or experts in the prosthetics field to validate the use of the e-glove and to continue optimizing the design of the glove.