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At the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, KITE researchers have developed a light-weight and easy-to-use robotic glove to help improve hand function in stroke survivors.
"Of the 15 million individuals that experience a stroke worldwide each year, half will have difficulty carrying out daily tasks because of reduced hand function," says KITE Senior Scientist Dr. Alex Mihailidis.
While robotic gloves have already been used for stroke rehabilitation, current models can be hard to operate due to the need for cables and heavy power packs.
To address these issues, a doctoral student in Dr. Mihailidis' laboratory, Aaron Yurkewich, developed the Hand Extension Robot Orthosis (HERO) Glove.
The glove was made by integrating robotic tendons powered by a nine-volt battery into a sports glove, like one used by a batter in baseball. The glove's grasping movements can be activated manually by pressing a button or automatically through a movement sensor.
"During the design process, we worked closely and collaboratively with stroke survivors, occupational therapists and engineering students," Dr. Mihailidis says. "The result is a robotic glove that is portable, easy to put on and easy to use."
The glove was recently tested in a clinical trial. It saw five stroke survivors carry out a series of dexterity tests, including the "block test" – which involves moving coloured wooden blocks from one container to another in a 60-second period. Without HERO Glove, four of the five test subjects were unable transfer any blocks; with the glove, they were able to move between three and seven blocks.
HERO Glove is an example of how inclusive design can lead to the development of effective rehabilitation tools. Future work will focus on further refining the design by engaging an even wider range of stroke survivors, with the ultimate goal of developing a glove that can be used at home to carry out daily tasks independently.
This work was supported by the University of Toronto; the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery; and AGE-WELL NCE Inc., which is funded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence program.