Cognitive strategies for augmenting the body with a wearable, robotic arm

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Martina Gini controls a simplified robotic limb pinch breathing. Credit: Alain Herzog / EPFL

Neuroengineer Silvestro Micera has developed precocious technological solutions to thief group regain sensory and centrifugal functions that person been mislaid owed to traumatic events aliases neurological disorders. Until now, he had ne'er earlier worked connected enhancing nan quality assemblage and cognition pinch nan thief of technology.

Now successful a study published successful Science Robotics, Micera and his squad study connected really diaphragm activity tin beryllium monitored for successful power of an other arm, fundamentally augmenting a patient individual pinch a third—robotic—arm.

“This study opens up caller and breathtaking opportunities, showing that other arms tin beryllium extensively controlled and that simultaneous power pinch some earthy arms is possible,” says Micera, Bertarelli Foundation Chair successful Translational Neuroengineering astatine EPFL, and professor of Bioelectronics astatine Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.

The study is portion of nan Third-Arm project, which intends to supply a wearable robotic limb to assistance successful regular tasks aliases to thief successful hunt and rescue. Micera believes that exploring nan cognitive limitations of third-arm power whitethorn really supply gateways towards amended knowing of nan quality brain.

Credit: Cameraman: Alain Herzog / EPFL; Journalist: Hillary Sanctuary / EPFL

Micera continues, “The main information of this 3rd limb power is to understand nan tense system. If you situation nan encephalon to do thing that is wholly new, you tin study if nan encephalon has nan capacity to do it and if it’s imaginable to facilitate this learning. We tin past transportation this knowledge to develop, for example, assistive devices for group pinch disabilities, aliases rehabilitation protocols aft stroke.”

“We want to understand if our brains are hardwired to power what quality has fixed us, and we’ve shown that nan quality encephalon tin accommodate to coordinate caller limbs successful tandem pinch our biologic ones,” explains Solaiman Shokur, co-PI of nan study and EPFL Senior Scientist astatine nan Neuro-X Institute.

“It’s astir acquiring caller centrifugal functions, enhancement beyond nan existing functions of a fixed user, beryllium it a patient individual aliases a abnormal one. From a tense strategy perspective, it’s a continuum betwixt rehabilitation and augmentation.”

Cognitive strategies for augmenting nan assemblage pinch a wearable, robotic arm A simplified robotic limb utilized successful nan EPFL study. Credit: Alain Herzog / EPFL

To research nan cognitive constraints of augmentation, nan researchers first built a virtual situation to trial a patient user’s capacity to power a virtual limb utilizing activity of his aliases her diaphragm. They recovered that diaphragm power does not interfere pinch actions for illustration controlling one’s physiological arms, one’s reside aliases gaze.

In this virtual reality setup, nan personification is equipped pinch a loop that measures diaphragm movement. Wearing a virtual reality headset, nan personification sees 3 arms: nan correct limb and hand, nan near limb and hand, and a 3rd limb betwixt nan 2 pinch a symmetric, six-fingered hand.

“We made this manus symmetric to debar immoderate bias towards either nan near aliases nan correct hand,” explains Giulia Dominijanni, Ph.D. student astatine EPFL’s Neuro-X Institute.

Cognitive strategies for augmenting nan assemblage pinch a wearable, robotic arm A unpaid uses breathing to activate a 3rd limb successful a virtual reality experiment, pinch co-authors Martina Gini (left) and Giulia Dominijanni. Credit: Alain Herzog / EPFL

In nan virtual environment, nan personification is past prompted to scope retired pinch either nan near hand, nan correct hand, aliases successful nan mediate pinch nan symmetric hand. In nan existent environment, nan personification holds onto an exoskeleton pinch some arms, which allows for power of nan virtual near and correct arms. Movement detected by nan loop astir nan diaphragm is utilized for controlling nan virtual middle, symmetric arm. The setup was tested connected 61 patient subjects successful complete 150 sessions.

“Diaphragm power of nan 3rd limb is really very intuitive, pinch participants learning to power nan other limb very quickly,” explains Dominijanni. “Moreover, our power strategy is inherently independent from nan biologic limbs and we show that diaphragm power does not effect a user’s expertise to speak coherently.”

The researchers besides successfully tested diaphragm power pinch an existent robotic arm, a simplified 1 that consists of a rod that tin beryllium extended out, and backmost in. When nan personification contracts nan diaphragm, nan rod is extended out. In an research akin to nan VR environment, nan personification is asked to scope and hover complete target circles pinch her near aliases correct hand, aliases pinch nan robotic rod.

Besides nan diaphragm, but not reported successful nan study, vestigial receptor muscles person besides been tested for feasibility successful performing caller tasks. In this approach, a personification is equipped pinch receptor sensors and trained to usage good receptor musculus activity to power nan displacement of a machine mouse.

“Users could perchance usage these receptor muscles to power an other limb,” says Shokur, emphasizing that these replacement power strategies whitethorn thief 1 time for nan improvement of rehabilitation protocols for group pinch centrifugal deficiencies.

Part of nan 3rd limb project, erstwhile studies regarding nan control of robotic arms person been focused connected helping amputees. The latest Science Robotics study is simply a measurement beyond repairing nan human body towards augmentation.

“Our adjacent measurement is to research nan usage of much analyzable robotic devices utilizing our various power strategies, to execute real-life tasks, some wrong and extracurricular of nan laboratory. Only past will we beryllium capable to grasp nan existent imaginable of this approach,” concludes Micera.

More information:
Giulia Dominijanni et al, Human centrifugal augmentation pinch an other robotic limb without functional interference, Science Robotics (2023). DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.adh1438.

Cognitive strategies for augmenting nan assemblage pinch a wearable, robotic limb (2023, December 13)
retrieved 14 December 2023

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