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Soft Robotic Glove for Neuromuscular Rehabilitation

A soft robotic glove designed to provide repetitive stretching, exercise, and grasping assistance to people with limited hand function due to neurological conditions

The majority of people with neurological conditions, such as stroke and spinal cord injury, experience loss of motor function in one or both hands, which can greatly reduce quality of life. Tasks often taken for granted become frustrating or nearly impossible due to tight spastic muscles, reduced grasping strength, and general lack of coordination in the hand.

Our soft robotic glove has inflatable chambers which gently bend and straighten the fingers, providing necessary stretches and repetitive exercise in order to restore lost hand function. Low pressure and comfortable materials make this device safe and desirable for repeated use. The minimalist form factor of soft robotics allows users to go about their daily activities without discomfort or frustration while wearing the glove in its unpowered state, and then smoothly transition into the glove’s powered assistance when they begin their therapeutic routine. The glove’s control system is portable and lightweight and can be placed on a tabletop or attached to a wheelchair.

We are continuing to test the design of the soft robotic glove on patients, with the goals of making it customizable for the specific pathologies of each individual and understanding what control strategies work best — but we’re already seeing a lot of exciting proof-of-concept experimental results.

Conor Walsh

Advances at the Wyss Institute in designing wearable robotic systems and a powerful “benchtop to bedside” translational approach have enabled involvement of potential end users in every step of the soft robotic glove’s testing and development. This holistic approach ensures that technology development goes beyond achieving functionality to incorporate social and psychological design elements that promote translation and seamless adoption by its intended end users.

The soft robotic glove is being tested in an ongoing clinical study at the Wyss Institute. Click here to learn more.

To make the glove comfortable and natural feeling to wearers, over several iterations of design, the actuators powering the movements of the glove were made smaller and modified to distribute forces more evenly over the wearer’s fingers and thumb. The current actuators inflate with a small volume of air to inflict forces on the hand, fully straightening and bending the fingers.

The Soft Robotic Glove technology is available for licensing.

 

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