Sensors bring wireless interface to prosthetics

Advances in prosthetics are seeing conventional cable-operated prostheses (left) giving way to myoelectric versions (right
Advances in prosthetics are seeing conventional cable-operated prostheses (left) giving way to myoelectric versions (right) (Bing)

Wireless biosignal transmission is no longer a novelty in modern prosthetics, as numerous research efforts are underway to create a more fluent man-machine interface. In one effort, a research team led by Oskar Aszmann from MedUni Vienna's Department of Surgery has successfully implanted sensors in three male patients following nerve transfers, to transmit biosignals for wireless control of robotic arms.

Researchers led by MedUni Vienna's Department of Surgery has successfully implanted sensors in three male patients following nerve transfers, allowing biosignals to wirelessly control robotic arms.
Researchers led by MedUni Vienna's Department of Surgery has successfully implanted sensors in
three male patients following nerve transfers, allowing biosignals to wirelessly control robotic arms.

Aszmann worked with commercial partner Otto Bock Healthcare Products and a development group in the USA (Alfred Mann Foundation). The research group is confident that, in the near future, wireless biosignal transmission will not only be used for prosthetics but also make an important contribution in many other biotechnology sectors. 

"After more than two years of observation, the results demonstrate extremely reliable data transmission and much quicker and safer use in comparison with standard systems," said Aszmann in a statement. The results have been published in the top journal "Science Robotics". 

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"These patients had had above-elbow amputations as a result of occupational or road accidents,” explained study author Stefan Salminger from MedUni Vienna's Department of Surgery. “In such cases, they not only have to have the hand and the wrist replaced by a myoelectric prosthesis but the elbow as well. The implanted sensors transmit the muscle signal wirelessly from the amputation stump to the prosthesis and are similarly wirelessly charged by a magnetic coil in the shaft of the prosthesis."

Combined with selective extension of the nerves that were responsible for hand and arm function before the amputation, these patients are able to control the prosthesis intuitively. This implantable technology could significantly improve muscle signal quality, and improve reliability of prosthesis control.

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