William Craelius, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers, along with his students, have made a breakthrough in developing a technology that will help amputees who have lost a hand. It may even allow them to perform such precise tasks as typing or playing the piano.
The Dextra artificial hand, so named because of the dexterity it imparts, is a prosthesis that permits people who are missing a hand to control individual fingers using their original nerve pathways.
It uses an amputee’s ability to move ‘phantom fingers’ by harnessing the movement of the finger muscles and tendons that extend up to the elbow.
Sensors in the artificial hand pick up electrical signals generated by these muscles and tendons and transmit them to a computer that directs the hand.
This new prosthesis is said to give the user natural control of up to five independent artificial fingers, enabling subjects to move these fingers individually.
Prior to Dextra, existing technology only allowed the user to perform grasping or holding actions, opening and closing a prosthesis by flexing or contracting a muscle. Individual finger control was not possible.
The Dextra hand is being further refined to miniaturise system components and connections while hardware and software testing is ongoing.