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Seeing through Touch: Contact-Location Sensing and Tactile Feedback for Prosthetic Hands




Locating and picking up an object without vision is a simple task for able-bodied people, due in part to their rich tactile perception capabilities. The same cannot be said for users of standard myoelectric prostheses, who must rely largely on visual cues to successfully interact with the environment. To enable prosthesis users to locate and grasp objects without looking at them, we propose two changes: adding specialized contact-location sensing to the dorsal and palmar aspects of the prosthetic hand’s fingers, and providing the user with tactile feedback of where an object touches the fingers. To evaluate the potential utility of these changes, we developed a simple, sensitive, fabric-based tactile sensor which provides continuous contact location information via a change in voltage of a voltage divider circuit. This sensor was wrapped around the fingers of a commercial prosthetic hand (Ottobock SensorHand Speed). Using an ATI Nano17 force sensor, we characterized the tactile sensor’s response to normal force at distributed contact locations and obtained an average detection threshold of 0.63 +/- 0.26 N. We also confirmed that the voltage-to-location mapping is linear (R squared = 0.99). Sensor signals were adapted to the stationary vibrotactile funneling illusion to provide haptic feedback of contact location. These preliminary results indicate a promising system that imitates a key aspect of the sensory capabilities of the intact hand. Future work includes testing the system in a modified reach-grasp-and-lift study, in which participants must accomplish the task blindfolded.

Author(s): Neha Thomas and Katherine J. Kuchenbecker
Year: 2020
Month: September

Department(s): Haptic Intelligence
Bibtex Type: Miscellaneous (misc)
Paper Type: Work in Progress

Address: Leiden, The Netherlands
How Published: Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics
State: Published


  title = {Seeing through Touch: Contact-Location Sensing and Tactile Feedback for Prosthetic Hands},
  author = {Thomas, Neha and Kuchenbecker, Katherine J.},
  howpublished = {Work-in-progress poster presented at EuroHaptics},
  address = {Leiden, The Netherlands},
  month = sep,
  year = {2020},
  month_numeric = {9}