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The First Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - iHand (The First Soft Robotic Glove for Hand Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2021-09-30

Bioservo Technologies AB has developed soft robotic gloves that can add extra strength to the grip since 2006. The technology is based on voluntary contractions/movements of the user. The iHand gloves incorporates intelligent intention detection and actuation algorithms in order to adapt the level of support. The iHand gloves can be used for rehabilitative, assistive and preventive purposes.

Demographic ageing is one of the most serious challenges Europe is facing as it raises concerns for the financial sustainability of healthcare systems. The incidence of sarcopenia (muscle weakness), cardiovascular diseases and hand mobility impairing diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis increases with age. The purpose of using the iHand rehabilitation glove is to enable a short rehabilitation period for people who suffer from various impairments in the wrist/hand. The usage of this glove enables people to rehabilitate in their home-environment and to perform activities of daily living. The iHand rehabilitation glove promotes self-management of health and provides people with the opportunity to live independently. This contributes to the quality of life for people and reduces the cost of health care services.

The World Health Organization has defined a work-related disorder as one that results from a number of factors and where the work environment and the performance of the work contribute to the causation of the disease. According to the Fit For Work Europe Coalition, musculoskeletal disorders are the leading cause of sickness absence across the EU with 44M workers suffering generating €240bn annually in lost productivity and sickness absence. Thirty percent of all musculoskeletal disorders are related to muscle-, or joint pain in the wrist/hand. The purpose of the iHand assist & prevent glove is to prevent musculoskeletal disorders induced or aggravated by work and the circumstances of its performance. Approximately 15M of European workers could benefit from using this glove. The iHand assist & prevent glove could additionally be of support for people already suffering from chronic musculoskeletal disorders in the upper limbs. A healthy work force is a prerequisite for productivity in both social and economic terms for businesses as well as for the society as a whole.
The requirements and specifications of the two different systems (Carbonhand and Ironhand®) were completed within the second reporting period (WP1). Further development of software and hardware was done with focus on usability, comfort, product cost, performance and producibility (WP2, WP3). Improvements have been made regarding the cloud-based data collection system. Collaborations with academia has been formed with the purpose of validating the data collection methods (WP3).
The user trials and clinical trial has shown positive results until this date, for both products (WP4). The clinical trial with Carbonhand show significant improvement in mean grip strength of 4.74 kg from pre- to postintervention. Besides hand strength, functional ability of the (most) affected hand improved significantly on the Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function Test (JTHFT). The improvements were generally sustained, or even continued, at follow-up, implying a lasting change in hand strength and/or functional ability after 6 weeks of glove use. The current result supports the presence of a therapeutic effect of using Carbonhand. The clinical trial will continue until completion in Q1 2022.

A total number of 15 conferences were attended by Bioservo during the project. Twenty workshops were held to promote both iHand solutions. Press releases, publications, social media updates and other PR were performed as part of the dissemination activities carried out (WP5). As part of the exploitation plan, several activities have been performed to expand and strengthen the distributor network (WP6). The growth of Bioservo’s distributor network has been successful throughout the project. Today 12 distributors in 3 different continents, and 2 rental companies in Europe and Japan (WP6).
This project goes beyond the state-of-the-art devices by using an intention detection logic that activates the support if the user initiates the movement by a natural and intuitive movement intention. The devices have actuators that can respond immediately and in a natural way in order to facilitate the intended movement. Specific algorithms have been improved so that the force provided by the actuators doesn’t replace the natural force by the user but complementing it.

Optimization of mechatronics has been made which involves reducing the size, weight and number of components of the system. This contributes to lower production costs for the company and improves the usability of the system. Since the first release of Ironhand® significant improvements have been made in regard of its size and weight. The weight of the system has been reduced by 0,7 kg and the powerpack is 4,8 cm shorter. These improvements have been made within the second reporting period.

The socio-economic impact of the usage of this technology can be significant. With the possibility for patients for rehabilitation in a shorter amount of time, in their home environment, the number of resources needed for these patients will be reduced. This provides a possibility to allocate resources within the healthcare system in another way. Companies actively preventing musculoskeletal disorders will decrease the number of sickness absence for employees. These companies will not have a loss of productivity, revenue or profitability. The further development of these products relates to 2 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN, number 10. Reduce Inequalities and number 5. Gender Equality. The usage of the Ironhand product will help bridge the gap of the individual’s physical capacity. The development of these products will result in a more equal workplace and society.
Carbonhand™ in daily use
HSE Summit 13-15 March 2019
Customer Visit Germany February 2019
Carbonhand™ in use
ExoBelin Trade show 23-24 Oct 2018
WearRAcon 26-28 March 2019
The Ironhand® system – Glove and Powerpack.
EWTS Conference - 9-11 Oct 2018
Carbonhand configuration via mobile application
IronConnect Pro – Mobile application for configuration, data collection and device management