Artificial supernumerary limbs (SL) that assist their user with minimal cognitive effort and can be seamlessly controlled both independently and also in combination with their natural limbs, are a popular vision of science fiction. The realisation of this vision could revolutionise industry and surgery, by allowing individuals to achieve actions that are otherwise impossible with only their own natural limbs. Furthermore, SLs could have profound impact on the lives of the disabled, by replacing or restoring the functionality of an impaired limb. While the study and evaluation of robotic limbs is well established, their usage as artificial SLs has been limited by restrictive control user interfaces, the lack of a control framework for coordinated trimanual operation, and incomplete sensory feedback. For SLs to become a functional technology for everyday life they need to provide continuous real-time interfaces with simultaneous feedback and control of the different degrees of freedom so that the user can both uniquely, without confusion, identify the mechanism's position/force and control the SL such that it can act independent of and in combined behaviours with the user's other limbs.
To tackle this ambitious goal, I have contacted pioneers with key technology in the emerging field of SL research. In collaboration with them, I will in TRIMANUAL:
(i) Push the borders of SL technology by integrating high density EMG and vibrotactile sensory feedback into existing robotic devices to allow for intuitive and effortless SL control in real-time;
(ii) Understand the cognitive underpinnings of SL usage by studying how they can be controlled and embodied for both independent operation and coordinated behaviours with the natural limbs;
(iii) Apply and demonstrate SLs using the highly relevant medical application of supporting daily activities in stroke patients.
Field of science
- /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/surgery
- /medical and health sciences/basic medicine/neurology/stroke
- /humanities/languages and literature/literary genres/essay/science fiction
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