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11-05-2017

An AI Robotic Hand that Sees What it Grabs Brings Hope to Amputees

Image Source | Youtube.com

Despite several incredible inventions, the functionality of prosthetic limbs[1] remains limited. Prosthetic limbs are great creations and losing a limb can be a very depressing experience but a prosthetic arm or leg can help humans function almost normally. However, there are some things they need to work on to produce a prosthetic that is almost like organic limbs. For instance, a prosthetic limb that can allow the wearer to reach for objects[2] automatically without thinking just like a real hand.

image Image Source | Youtube.com

Well, that’s exactly the idea being developed by the biomedical researchers from Newcastle University[3] and funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. They created a prototype prosthetic limb with a built in AI camera[4] attached on top. The camera uses some sort of computer vision technology and the researchers teach it to recognize some 500 objects. When the user grabs something, the camera instantly takes a picture of the object in front of it, assesses its shape and sizes it and then it triggers a series of movements in the hand.

image Image Source | Youtube.com

With the usual methods that require the user to see the object, physically stimulates the muscles in the arm and trigger a movement in the prosthetic limb, the hand ‘sees’ and reacts in one fluid movement. A small number of amputees have already tried the new technology and now the Newcastle University teams are working with experts at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to offer the ‘hands with eyes’ to patients at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Video Courtesy of Youtube:

“Using computer vision, we have developed a bionic hand which can respond automatically — in fact, just like a real hand, the user can reach out and pick up a cup or a biscuit with nothing more than a quick glance in the right direction,” said Dr. Kianoush Nazarpour, a biomedical lecturer at Newcastle University, in a press statement. “The beauty of this system is that it’s much more flexible and the hand is able to pick up novel objects — which is crucial since in everyday life people effortlessly pick up a variety of objects that they have never seen before.”

This bionic limb[5] is a lot easier to use than the modern   prosthetics today and it is 10 times faster than others on the market, according to the researchers. The camera is cheap because it is just an ordinary Logitech webcam[6] and the AI software that recognizes the objects can be trained cheaply, which is great news to our pockets. The downside is that, the neural network that was used to recognize objects isn’t always accurate. It has about 80-90 percent success rate. The amputees who tested the prosthetics had to override the actions of the prosthetic limb when necessary.

“For me, one of the ways of dealing with the loss of my hand was to be very open about it and answer people’s questions.  But not everyone wants that and so to have the option of a hand that not only looks realistic but also works like a real hand would be an amazing breakthrough and transform the recovery time – both physically and mentally – for many amputees.” Dr. Kianoush Nazarpour said.

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References

  1. ^ prosthetic limbs (en.wikipedia.org)
  2. ^ prosthetic limb that can allow the wearer to reach for objects (www.theverge.com)
  3. ^ biomedical researchers from Newcastle University (www.ncl.ac.uk)
  4. ^ AI camera (www.mobilemag.com)
  5. ^ bionic limb (www.mobilemag.com)
  6. ^ Logitech webcam (www.mobilemag.com)

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