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PhD Position - Investigation of non invasive feedback in prosthetic limbs

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  • PhD Position - Investigation of non invasive feedback in prosthetic limbs

    The mechanical design of prosthetic hands has undergone major improvements in the last decade, however, the control of the hands has remained less well developed. Of the differences between the natural and prosthetic hands, one aspect that stands out, is that the amount and types of feedback that the person with a natural hand uses, while powered prosthetic hands have very limited feedback (usually only visual).

    Internal feedback to the nerves of the user is still difficult and will be expensive for the foreseeable future, so non invasive feedback to the skin should be more practical and immediately realisable. When other forms of feedback, such as force, are applied to prosthetic limbs they tend not to improve the functional performance of the operator. This could be because the feedback is not of the right form or perhaps fed to the user in the wrong way. The project aims to investigate why feedback forms are not usable and to find ways to improve the performance by adopting the correct approach.

    The successful candidate will study the use of feedback to enhance prosthetic grasping. You will begin by creating tests and using unimpaired volunteers explore the limits of different feedback modalities, from vibration to force, heat to pressure, and the different senses being reproduced (force, touch, motion, proprioception and temperature). The tests will include sensory substitution, one external sense being replaced by another fed back (force for vibration). The tests will involve both Virtual Reality as well as physical simulation of grasping and manipulation. Tests will explore which sense is useful, under which circumstances.
    When the tests have allowed sufficient understanding of the problem, and identified the most effective solutions, the tests will be adapted to be applied to users of prosthetic limbs in the lab. The stretch goal for the project will be that the systems will be adapted further to be used in the field by a selected few prosthesis wearers.