For the purpose of aiding millions of people with muscles weaknesses or with illnesses, a robotic glove based on AI technology could soon help people recover from such health problems after securing support from the Edinburgh Business School’s (EBS) Incubator, based at Heriot-Watt University.
Motivated to help people having struggles such as his aunt’s with daily tasks like drinking water or changing TV channel after loss of movement caused by multiple sclerosis, led Ross O’Hanlon, 24, to produce the robotic glove.
Four recent engineering graduates, including O’Hanlon, are responsible for BioLiberty, a Scottish start-up, which came up with the robotic glove considered as the first product.
By using Electromyography (EMG) to measure electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle, the glove detects a user’s intention to grip. It then employs an algorithm to convert the intention into force, helping the user to hold an item or apply the necessary pressure to complete an activity.
Help with day-to-day tasks
Some of the ways in which this technology is expected to help with day-to-day tasks includes opening jars, driving and pouring a cup of tea.
The main purpose of the new device is to help the 2.5 million people in the UK suffering from hand weakness through illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease and carpal tunnel syndrome – as well those who have lost muscle mass loss due to age.
“Being an engineer, I decided to use technology to tackle these challenges head on, with the aim of helping people like my aunt to retain their autonomy,” Mr. O’Hanlon, from Newry in Northern Ireland, said.
“As well as those affected by illness, the population continues to age and this places increasing pressure on care services. We wanted to support independent living and healthy aging by enabling individuals to live more comfortably in their own homes for longer,” he noted.
The team is working from home in Edinburgh, Belfast and London, due to the pandemic, but plans to return to the Business School once the virus restrictions are lifted.
“We’re confident that support of this type will help accelerate the glove into homes more quickly,” O’Hanlon added.
The team have created a working prototype and secured support from Edinburgh Business School’s Incubator, based at Heriot-Watt University which Mr. O’Hanlon said is a “huge boost.”
There are many gadgets on the market that focus on a specific grip challenge such as tools to help open jars, however this new technology is an all-encompassing solution to support a range of daily tasks.
Such ideas will inspire other entrepreneurs to take the next step, O’Hanlon noted.