Tasks such as opening doors are a part of everyday life for most people. However, for people who people suffer paralysis of the hand and fingers through injuries or diseases – such as spinal cord injury, stroke and cerebral palsy – they can present a huge challenge without the support of assistive technologies.
About 500,000 people end up in a wheelchair each year. Of those, around half also suffer injuries to their hand. And that number doesn’t include the people who sustain injuries just to their hands. People with disability want to live an independent life.
To address this, Kyujin Cho at Seoul National University has developed the Exo-Glove Poly, a soft wearable robot that addresses paralysis of the hand by enabling people to grasp and pinch various objects. Exo is from the Greek for ‘outside’ and Poly refers to the glove’s being made of polymer. Inspired by human fingers, this flexible, rubber-like robotic glove is superior to bulky exoskeletons due to its lightweight compactness and increased usability.
Built so that it’s comfortable enough to be worn every day and waterproof for easy sanitisation, Exo-Glove Poly has three fingers that fit over the wearer’s thumb, index finger and middle finger, with a soft tendon routing system of wires. The motor, controlled by a simple switch, pulls on the wires to open and close the hand. Design features allow adjustment to different hand sizes and to protect users from injury, as well as taking into consideration price, mass production, wearability and appearance.
The device was developed through a unique and inspiring cooperation of students with disabled persons. The team hope that more people with disability will be able to live a better independent life, but most of all, the goal of the SNU Biorobotics Lab is to foster and educate innovative and empathetic researchers to become agents of change for the future. Cho plans to commercialise the product by the end of 2017. You can get more information here.
Watch the final prototype in action and learn about the ongoing research for two-handed tasks, such as opening and closing a bottle.
Kyujin Cho, Director, Biorobotics Laboratory, Seoul National University
South Korea (Seoul)