Novel Robotic Hand with naturalistic, multi-planar movement
The team of Dr Aldo Faisal at Imperial College London has developed a novel robotic hand that achieves naturalistic movement of the human hand, without requiring translation in the hand joints, and further enables teleoperation of complex tasks.
Innovations is seeking commercial partners to bring the novel robotic hand technology efficiently to market. A patent application protecting the technology is available for exclusive licensing.
Our dexterous hand is a fundamental human feature that distinguishes us from other animals by enabling us to go beyond grasping to support sophisticated in-hand object manipulation. The simultaneous action of multiple degrees of freedom (DoF) of the fingers and thumb is instrumental in allowing dexterous and precise tasks to be performed with the least amount of effort. However, emulating our hands’ level of functionality in an anthromorphic device has proven to be extremely difficult.
The thumb plays an important role in manipulating complex pre-held objects as it covers a wide range of motion when engaged. Several robotics hands have tried to emulate the thumb capabilities by utilising the double hinge joint feature. However, it has resulted in un-naturalistic motions and the assumption that baseframe location movement is needed. These challenges have been overcome by a novel robotic hand that facilitate in-hand object manipulation while avoiding mechanical design complexity. The novel design uses a tendon-driven ball joint as a basis for an articulated thumb.
A novel robotic hand that emulates both the biomechanical and neurobiological function of the human hand, and performs advanced in-hand manipulation tasks.
- All fingers are designed as hollow cylinders consisting of 4 joints, and pulleys are implemented at each joint location to prevent tendons moving away from the central axis of the finger, minimising friction during motion.
- The two joints in the dorsal region of the palm allows additional DoFs that enable digits to fully flex providing agility when performing dynamic action manifolds.
- A “ball-in-socket” joint in the thumb comprises of 3 DoF, which allows for planar movements and rotation about the directional axis.
- The kinetic and functional capabilities of the robotic hand is controlled by motors that are mounted on an external support acting as a forearm.
- Tendons are attached midway on each phalanx and the other end is directly mounted on standard sized servo motors, and it uses springs to avoid tendon slack.
The novel design of the thumb joint has enabled the robotic hand to execute 33 most commonly used grasps in activities of daily life. In addition, the hand also demonstrates control of precise and complex in-hand manipulation tasks such as texting on a hand-held mobile phone, without requiring movable joints locations nor sensory tactile feedback in teleoperation. The ball-jointed thumb proves to be superior in range of motions and daily-life activities over current prosthetic and dexterous robotic hands. Existing robotic hands use a double hinge joint, which require the end-user to physically adjust the thumb joint to switch from cylindrical to lateral grasp. The novel ball-joint design has revolutionised robotic prosthetic hand by enabling them to perform naturalistic, multi-planar movements similar to the human thumb.
The prosthetic and therapeutic robotic devices is expected to grow into a $1.9 billion and $1.7 billion market by 2025 respectively, as an aging population demands better quality of life and superior performance.
A provisional patent (1611034.8) has been filed to protect the novel robotic hand with a ball-joint thumb.