Archives for category: robotics

Silver nanowire sensors hold promise for prosthetics, robotics


As wearable technology progresses, monitoring activity using these devices will require more accuracy as the user interacts with the environment. From fitness trackers to prosthetics, a wearable robotic device is extremely useful if its user is able to interact and gain feedback from its use. At North Carolina State University, researchers developed a silver-based nanowire sensor to monitor changes in pressure, finger touch, strain, and bioelectronic changes. As described in the study, the sensor involves a material placed between two conductors. The silver wires are the conductors, while the material in the middle is Ecoflex silicone and serves as the electric insulator. These sensors are moveable, stretchable, and respond to pressure changes in real time, within 40 milliseconds. Between these two layers an electric charge is stored, and as the sensor is stretched or deformed in any way, this change is interpreted as energy and measured.

The movements which these sensors are able to detect are walking, running, and jumping from squatting. For use in robotics devices such as exoskeletons and prosthetics, this information will become invaluable as the user will need this information in order to interact with the environment for safety and feedback purposes. The sensors can be used to ‘feel’ the environment, as well as to monitor movement and activity. For those with robotic prosthetic devices, these sensors can be used to provide important feedback to retrain the body and provide kinesthetic feedback.

One of the unique attributes of these sensors is their ability to deform and change shape with movement, as they can stretch up to 150% of their original shape.


Termed, a ‘collaborative robot’ and starting its commercialization phase, C-Bot from Spain-based FisioBot is designed as an automated physical therapy room which includes are two robotic arms designed to administer treatment. The C-Bot is designed so far mostly for simple procedures and modalities: vacuum (suction) therapy, hot air therapy, electrotherapy, and laser therapy. These treatments can be adjusted for depth and intensity, and the robot is deemed safe for human use as there is a limit of how much physical pressure it can apply.

For use, A 3D scan of the patient’s body is performed, giving each patient an identification card of a map of their body. The treatment of choice is then administered, with the possibility of simultaneous treatments.

As robotics grows in healthcare, the implications of the C-Bot for PT are interesting, and it seems a short matter of time before robots are assisting in more involved procedures during manual therapy.

See the videos below for a demonstration (video in Spanish), and an automated video.


Humans are visual creatures. Of all our senses we largely rely on sight, our cues for survival rely on it and much of our brain tissue is dedicated to the process. And while all prosthetics are complex, as recreating normal physiology is extremely difficult, the eye is something else. In order for us to view an image, signals are detected from the environment in our eyes, sent along via a nerve and then flipped and processed in the brain to form an image for us to view. This is happening constantly as we move our eyes. When there is an injury that obstructs this process, blindness occurs.

A developing category of prostheses called neuroprosthetics is finding a way to complement nervous system dysfunction and become the link between the brain, nerves, and the rest of the body. Within this category, bionic eyes are being developed to supplement neural injury leading to blindness. One such example is the development of bionic vision system from Monash Vision Group called the Gennaris.

Targeted for those with blindness or a severe visual impairment, Gennaris is a two part system of headwear with a camera and an implantable brain chip. While normally we rely on the retina in our eyes to receive images and then send signals to the brain via the optic nerve, Gennaris plans to bypass this process and send the signal straight to the brain from its camera into an implanted brain chip, which will then stimulate the visual cortex of the brain which processes images. This involves some retraining of the brain to adapt to this system, but for those that currently live in the dark this offers much hope.

The Monash Vision Group is still seeking funding to continue to develop this project for release in 2015, please contact them if you would like to contribute.


3D printing is truly changing healthcare, allowing us to print everything from hearts to skulls to exoskeletons to hands. This revolution has paved the way for making replacement limbs for amputees financially accessible. In England, a young roboticist has made it his mission to begin a project to provide a low cost, open source 3D design kit for those with missing hands. Through crowdfunding, Joel Gibbard of Open Bionics was able to create a low cost robotic hand kit, including designs for both a robotic myoelectric hand and a prosthetic hand.

The robotic hand is titled the Adams Hand, using electric motors to replace muscles and steel cables to replace tendons. Movement of the intact muscles of the forearm and wrist enable synergistic movement of the device, meaning that an action such as bending the wrist would engage the bending of the 3D fingers and hand. With grabbing an item, the fingers stop once there is an object impeding their movement. Thus, the hand is able to master the task of grasping a fragile, uneven object such as an egg.

The project is geared both toward amputees and researchers for use in advancing the field of robotics.

A DIY kit includes Adams Hand, Servo, Wrist (with generic connector), wire tendon, mounting screws, servo horn, and instruction manual.  A price is not yet set. Please see the video below.

As technology and the 3D printing boom in healthcare moves ahead, it’s inspiring to see that some are still thinking of people that may not have access to all the great healthcare opportunities that come with more resources.


In honor of the now open registration of the Cybathlon, I would like to highlight the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) category, where paralyzed athletes (pilots) will be able to navigate an onscreen race course using only their brains.

For those with injuries that leave them paralyzed from the neck down, recent products have improved the ability to communicate and interact with the surrounding environment. Such products include wearable technology that includes electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, which read signals from the brain through electrodes and transmit theses signals into readable information on a screen. Through Brain Computer Interface systems, a person is able to visualize a task through mental imagery, and these signals are transmitted through EEG into activity on a screen or movement of a device.

One such product that is able to transfer these signals to screen is Enobio. Enobio is ‘a wearable and wireless electrophysiology sensor system for the recording of EEG.’  It is a system which is worn over the head and includes an 8, 20, or 32 electrode system for numerous applications. Brain computer interface is just one of the uses, while other applications include basic research, neuromodulation, medical applications, and biometry. Such a product of course is not limited for those with disabilities, and can be beneficial to many different users.

See the video below to watch users remotely control a dancing robot:


A lightweight wearable robot which subtly assists with human movement? The amazing innovation of wearable technology cannot be achieved without intelligence, countless hours of work, and years of research by those behind the products. Boosted by a recent DARPA grant, Harvard’s Wyss Insititute is developing a Soft Exosuit to assist with walking with the use of textiles and wearable sensors. While not yet a completed product for the market, it is already clear how this wearable robot can potentially change the lives of those with neurological disorders, muscle weakness, the elderly, and those that are fatigue-prone in professions such as the military and first responders.

The components of this product are amazing, especially in their consideration to avoid interference of the device with the user. Elastic textiles that align with certain muscle groups and transmit forces to the body to assist with natural, synergistic movement during gait. Because the textiles are elastic and are unable to measure angles at joints (as rigid components do normally), wearable sensors at the hip, calf and ankle monitor forces and changes in movement. The idea is to provide assistive torque at the joints to mimic normal muscle activity when needed. The sensors track the changes in movement to monitor the types of activities of the user, such as walking or running, to assist with the diversity of everyday activity.

Something especially interesting about the Exosuit is how closely it works with human physiology and biomechanics during gait, including the passive movement of the limbs during walking. Because the functional textiles stretch, they can closely align with muscle groups and assist movement without letting the components interfere with what is natural for the body.

Please see the video below for more:


One of the problems with technology is that especially when it first becomes available, many of those that would benefit from it cannot afford it. So while there are many new great options becoming available for amputees, those that don’t have access to funds are unable to benefit. This is why when a $50 dollar option for a printed mechanical hand is offered to the medical world, it should be embraced and supported.

The E-Nable project is truly amazing. It is a network of over 1500 volunteers dedicated to helping provide affordable 3D printed prosthetics for those that can otherwise not afford the multi-thousand dollar ticket that many prosthetics cost. From 3D printing companies to robotics companies to doctors, this project has a worldwide growing network of people willing to design and contribute to low cost prosthetics for amputees. Crowdfunding and generous donations have also contributed to the cause.

In addition to listing participants that can contribute resources or services, the site offers a number of open source designs available so that those with access to a 3D printer can print and assemble their own hand and finger prostheses.  Currently Included are more basic options, as well as those with myoelectric capabilities. Each option provides open source software and video tutorials on how to assemble. The various options accommodate different types of amputations, for those at the wrist or fingers. There is even an prosthetic for a partial finger amputation, the Owen Replacement Finger.

I cannot fully describe everything involved in this project, please visit the site.  The project will hold its first conference titled “Prosthetists meet Printers” on September 28th, 2014 at Johns Hopkins Hospital to involve more of the medical community and introduce them to the options that are available to their underprivileged patients. This will include physician Dr. Albert Chi, a renowned trauma surgeon at the hospital who has been involved in the project.

To donate supplies or funds, click here.

Below is a sample of one of the instructional videos available, in this case it is the Cyborg Beast :


Upper body prostheses have definitely come a long way. For those with amputations at the hand or wrist, gone is the time when the only option was a hook or some other horrific replacement. 

Touch Bionics is a company which makes myoelectric prostheses to replace upper body amputations at the hand and wrist. Myoelectric prostheses are a life-altering product which attach at the remaining part of the limb and are triggered my muscle signals from intact muscle. Touch Bionics has a number of products, and has recently updated their i-limb ultra bionic hand to the i-limb ultra revolution, which includes a rotating thumb and four other articulating digits for up to 36 types of grasp. A mobile app allows the control of these grip patterns, which includes 12 possible customized grips. In addition, a silicone skin-like covering is available in a number of colors to allow for improved grasp and a more skin-like feel.

As we know, hands are very complex body parts with multiple joints that are responsible for numerous different movements, functions, and types of grip. To recreate these movements and try to mimic the function of human fingers, particularly the thumb, is quite difficult. While the loss of a hand naturally causes a great disability, a great product such as this allows an individual to perform a multitude of daily task such as tie their shoes, grasp a pen, or use a smartphone.

Watch the video below for more information:


There is no doubt that robotics is changing and improving the field of healthcare. While there are many brilliant products being introduced in this field, it is the robotic exoskeleton that I personally find the most amazing. To think that one day we can completely eradicate the long term use of wheelchairs for people with neurological injuries and replace them with a wearable robot which allows them to stand and walk is absolutely inspiring.

The Indego is one of these devices. Weighing in at 26 pounds, this modular device comes in 5 pieces and is put on in components over the legs, hips and torso. The light frame of the device allows users to keep it on even while in a wheelchair prior to use. The device responds to weight shifts in order to guide movement. A forward lean allows the device to help users stand and walk, while leaning backward stops movement. Modular components at the hip and legs propel forward movement at the joints once initiated.

Currently only available for research purposes in rehabilitation centers, the website states it anticipates commercial sales in the US in 2016.

See the video below for demonstration and more information:


Printing is currently extremely inconvenient if you do not have regular access to a printer. Which is why it is so exciting that a mobile printer is in production and will be available for sale as early as next year. The Zuta Labs Mini Mobile Robotic Printer is a 10 x 11.5 centimeter pocket printer which is essentially an inkjet that rolls over whichever paper on which you need to print. The printer just needs a wireless connection, and can be recognized on computers as a regular printer. It supports iOS, Android, Linux, and Windows. The mobile printer is designed to start at the top of the page, and an inkjet rests on multidirectional wheels in order to cover the surface on which it is printing.

The Pocket Printer’s Kickstarter page has met its goal, but is still accepting backers in order to add more features.

See the videos below for a demonstration of how the device will look when it is working and their informational Kickstarter video: