Sep 25, 2016 | By Tess

While most people don’t think twice about clicking a mouse or moving a cursor around using a trackpad, the tasks that we take for granted can actually be very difficult for those with either limited hand mobility or missing limbs. To help find a solution to this challenge and to make digital operations and tasks easier for those with physical hand disabilities, a team of German students has devised Shortcut, a 3D printed smart wristband which communicates wireless gestures through muscle movement.

The three students responsible for the innovative design, David Kaltenbach, Lucas Rex and Maximilian Mahal, are all graduate students in design at the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin who are realizing the product in cooperation with Ottobock and Fab Lab Berlin. In brief, Shortcut is made up of two parts, a 3D printed watch-like rotund wristband which can be attached on the inside wrist of the prosthetic, which is equipped with an optical sensor, and a second band which fits halfway up the forearm made up of Myo sensors.

The first wristband, prototyped using 3D printing technologies but ultimately injection molded, allows the user to use their wrist and prosthetic hand as a mouse, effectively controlling where it moves on the screen by simply moving the prosthetic hand in a planar motion. The forearm band, which uses the same Myo gesture control technology that many prosthetics use to recognize muscle signals, essentially allows the user to send commands to the mouse, such as clicking, right clicking, and even scrolling.

How does this last device function? Well, as you may already know, even with a missing hand, muscles in the arm can still make movements that feel like they are being realized by a phantom limb. Movements like forming a fist, raising the hand, and even pointing can still be done even without the hand being physically present. With the Myo armband, these phantom gestures are picked up by the sensors through muscle movement in the arm and thanks to some ingenuity have been translated into mouse demands. For instance, a phantom pinch could be recognized by the armband as a mouse click, and bending the wrist could make the mouse scroll, etc.

So far, the Shortcut device is still in its prototyping stage, as the student team has been using 3D printing and a wired Arduino for the wristband. Ultimately, they plan to make the device wireless, however. For the armband, Mahal explains their progress saying: “Right now it is just a proof of concept. It works, though. But not very stable. We are using a Myo bracelet for the current prototype, however we plan to use more sophisticated myoelectric sensors somewhere in the near future. We want to develop a more reliably working prototype for intensive user testing with amputees, in order to refine the concept and design.”

While still far from being commercialized, the innovative device has already been recognized by Ars Electronica and the Mart Stam Förderpreis who awarded the student team the STARTS prize for their work.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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