Background: There are an estimated ~11000 upper limb amputees in England, of which roughly 25% are upper arm (amputations between the wrist and elbow). These amputees are typically younger than most other amputees, and are typically due to trauma. There are several types of prosthesis that these amputees can use, from basic aesthetic prostheses to body-powered and more expensive myoelectric (nervous controlled) prostheses. While these can provide some degree of functionality, they do not give the amputee any feedback on the pressure, movement or temperature of the object with which they are interacting. Imagine driving with pins and needles in your left leg - you would never know if or when you were "riding the clutch".
Sensory feedback to upper-limb amputees is a challenge that does not just affect the UK. It is a high priority for amputees around the world, including in developing countries such as Rwanda. New technologies are only just starting to be available in the United States that enable sensory feedback for amputees - but at a prohibitive cost for widespread use in the UK and in developing countries.
My Technology: I have developed a low-cost sensory skin feedback system that utilises conductive flexible sensors, coupled to bespoke electronics, that provide data to a real-time stimulation classification algorithm. The photos below show the demonstrator in example "movement off" and "movement on" positions.
In the image shown below, the the response of both ligaments on the little finger are shown to be correlated.
This algorithm can - with 95% accuracy - differentiate between pressure, movement and/or temperature stimuli across 8 ligaments mounted on fingers, and provide a sensation back to the body during the stimulation. I filed a patent application in June 2020. This enabled me to publish a paper on my technology in December 2020, which was a finalist in a Young Investigator Award competition.
Why I Need Your Support: To enable this technology to be brought to market, I need to continue to develop the technology and to protect the intellectual property. By the end of May 2021 I need to raise at least £3000-£5000 to cover the patent costs, which will allow me to liaise with UK- and international-based Prosthetics manufacturers and take the technology to the next level. I am contributing some of this funding myself, but I am not able to afford the full costs by myself.
For funding raised over the £5000, the next stage is to build a second demonstrator with electronics that provide more granular pressure, movement and temperature sensing.
Impact: Sensory feedback is a key requirement from amputees, which cannot widely be satisfied at the moment. This technology will enable amputees to be able to feel pressure, movement and temperature stimuli. This will aid the physical rehabilitation and support the mental health of users, and reduce stigma associated with disability. It will also users - who are typically younger than other amputees - to resume their previous job or begin a new career.