Globally more than 200 million people live with some type of disability. Among them are a large number of people with motor disabilities. The current rehabilitation devices are often bulky, expensive, and require manual interaction with physical therapists that makes the procedure labor‐intensive and raises costs. This renders rehabilitation a primary challenge.
By observing the limitations of approaches introduced by previous models, we aim to create Neuro-ExoHeal - an Exoskeleton capable of providing faster rehabilitation to stroke patients and those with muscular degenerative diseases.
During our research for a potential cure, we discovered neuroplasticity. By studying its concepts, we came up with a rehabilitation routine: giving hope, overcoming learned non-use and neurogenesis. As it becomes impractical to travel large distances for the patient's sessions, we made an app that drastically reduces costs and improves recovery time by acting as a means of communication between the patient and the doctor.
Neuro-ExoHeal, unlike its predecessors, is designed to feel like a second skin. It is divided into a wireless skeletal and sensory hand. A movement executed by the working hand forces the paralyzed hand to mirror the exact motion. This incremental training rewires the brain by triggering plastic changes, resulting in increased strength.
By combining ideas from previously built models, we have created a hand exoskeleton, which is truly wireless, precise, portable and one that increases the rate of rehabilitation by 30%.
We were successful in making a prosthetic hand which could be used by amputees as an alternative. During our research, We realized that more patients were diagnosed with hand paralysis and hand stroke. We decided to take this up as a challenge and create a cure or an alternative for these people.
upon extensive research, We realized that a machine is yet to be built which is affordable, portable and user-friendly. When it comes to a medical issue, it doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire or under poverty, we are all in the same boat.
Neuroplasticity is the key.
We hypothesize; by using the concepts of neuroplasticity and the intricate movements of the hand, combined with an exoskeleton capable of performing bilateral movement training, will enable the impaired hand of the patient to recover at a faster rate. This combined with an app capable of acting as a means of communication between the doctor and the patient will cure the hardships faced by stroke patients and those with muscular degenerative diseases and help patients recover faster.
Neuro-ExoHeal comprises three section.
Others have felt the need for rehabilitation hand exoskeletons. Presently Festo's Exohand, Assisted Finger Orthosis, HEXORR, NASA K-Glove, Robo-Glove, Hand of Hope, etc have already been created, but a majority of them are yet to be put to practical use and cost upwards of $10,000.
The Festo Company developed the ExoHand, a hand exoskeleton whose main characteristic is the individual finger motion applied principally to increase user strength, transferring skills from human to robot and BCI. It is a pneumatically actuated robot and as such, it is robust and not especially portable due to the heavy equipment.
Researchers at Curtin University have made a hand exoskeleton called the Assisted Finger Orthosis; the hand exoskeleton can be customized for an individual using 48 parameters. The battery-powered device uses small linear motors that can be programmed to move the finger. However, the fingers are unable to move quickly due to the slow RPM. Although it is cost effective, it fails to achieve independent movement in each of the phalanxes of the fingers and so the fingers do not get much benefit out of the training. The Exoskeleton is bulky, heavy and not portable.
Many more rehabilitation hand Exoskeletons have been built, but they all more or less possess the same problems: they tend to work slowly, are bulky and not portable, which negates the possibility for them to be used in everyday life, hindering motor recovery.
While researching we came across neuroplasticity. It is defined as the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to undergo the structural and functional change in response to new experiences. Despite major progress in the understanding of neuroplasticity, very few new treatment mechanisms have been developed. After looking deeper into the matter, we realized that rehabilitation of stroke patients requires the effective use of neuroplasticity for functional recovery. Studies indicate that if two hands simultaneously work to complete a task, with the influence of both psychological and neural mechanism, the task would be completed with a better outcome due to interactions in between resulting in better action.
The primary causes of hand disabilities are neuromusculoskeletal diseases such as the tetraplegia, hemiplegia, tendonitis and degenerative illnesses like arthritis. To be treated, these illnesses require opportune active and passive physiotherapy treatments to avoid permanent damage to the joints.
Our research helped us to design and develop an affordable, precise, portable, light-weight solution, with independent motion on each phalanx to fulfill the specifications obtained for particular rehabilitation protocols for those with hand paralysis, hand stroke, and muscular degenerative diseases. Neuro-ExoHeal's rehabilitation routine will be capable of accelerating their rate of recovery. Many patients are unable to afford overall expenses and it becomes impractical to travel large distances for a 1-2 hour session. In order to counter this delay in recovery, we made an app that helps to drastically reduce the costs and improve recovery time by bridging the gap between the patient and the doctor. Thus allowing the patient to use the device comfortably at home.
ExoHeal consists of a sensory glove and a skeletal hand, that work together along with an app and rehabilitation routine.
This hand will operate as a sensory input and will be fixed with flex sensors that detect precise movements performed by the phalanxes. These sensors use this information to perceive the movement; the patient is trying to perform and transmits it to the microcontroller which in turn processes the analog data and sends it to a wireless receiver module connected to a second microcontroller, this data is then processed by the second microcontroller to actuate servos and mirror the movements performed by the flex sensors.
The signals undergo a process of voltage division for them to be calibrated through a 10KOhm resistor which limits current flow and adjusts signal levels and a capacitor smoothens the supplied voltage.
We have prototyped an exoskeleton for the paralyzed hand. The exoskeleton consists of electronics and servo motors that actuate based on the data perceived by the microcontroller, which receives this information via a wireless receiver module from the numerous variable resistors stationed on the sensory hand. The skeletal hand is an exoskeleton based on a design that's portable, lightweight, automated and functional. It was created using PLA and SLA as it was tough, flexible and allowed for design modification.
The two microcontrollers receive electricity from an inbuilt 10,000mAh and 1000mAh power source.
An app was created to work with ExoHeal. Available in multiple languages, it is divided into a doctor's and patient's app. The doctor's app allows the physician to remotely monitor the progress and guide various patients from anywhere around the world. It allows the physician to program the patient’s device to operate as per the user’s condition.
The patient’s app was programmed to work based on user feedback. Exercise routines were pre-programmed to activate in accordance with the different stages of the rehabilitation routine. The app works as a guide in the absence of a physician and sends statistical results to the doctor.
The first prototype was designed to fit our sister's hand. During testing, it determined the minor flaws in the design.
In the second prototype, all of the electronics are housed in containers and the exoskeleton is able to mimic the movement performed by the phalanxes. The exoskeleton is mounted on top of a glove, thereby increasing comfortability.
In the third prototype, the circuitry has been further simplified. A smaller microcontroller has been used to reduce the bulk of the device. The device is 30%lighter, 40%smaller and twice as responsive.
This final prototype was designed to feel like a second skin. The electronics have been further simplified. The device is now cordless, thereby allowing the user to comfortably use the device at home. It is accompanied by the app.
Various tests have been conducted using the device over the course of 2 years, all producing positive results.
The device underwent a response test so as to ensure minimum time delay between the Sensory glove and the skeletal hand. It is imperative to test this in order to ensure the successful activation of the mirror neuron.
GRAPH 1: ExoHeal is quite responsive with a minimal average time delay of 0.01 seconds between the action of the sensory glove and the mirroring reaction of the skeletal hand.
VIDEO 1: There is a very short delay of approximately 100 microseconds in the response time of the Exoskeleton in comparison with the sensory hand.
After prototyping the proposed device it was crucial to test the precision to precisely mimic the movements performed by the phalanxes on the sensing hand; in order for the mirror neuron to activate. To accurately measure the precision of the exoskeleton, The angle of movement was measured.
GRAPH 2: It can be said with certainty that the Exoskeleton can mimic the movements of the phalanxes on the sensory hand precisely.
VIDEO 2: From the above video, it is noticeable that the movements of ExoHeal are very precise.
It is imperative for the Exoskeleton to remain functional for longer periods of time. To test the duration of the power bank, a looped command was given to the microcontroller; the device was left until the power bank was exhausted and the time was recorded. A voltmeter was used to detect the voltage at 1 hour time intervals. The device was tested after 8 hours of continuous use:
GRAPH 3: From the above graph, it can be noted that the power bank can work for an approximate period of 16 hours without any problem. The average voltage received by the servo motors is 4.9 volts.
TABLE 1: Exoheal is able to function as a device to aid the patients in their routine tasks. Its capable of grasping everyday objects and is comfortable enough for patients to use the device for long periods of time.
GRAPH 5: Mean finger extension torque. The mean torque for Subject 3 was negative. This indicates that the assistance forces were too high and extended the finger
GRAPH 6: Finger metacarpal proximal phalanx. The provided assistance increased finger flexion by 41% and reduced finger extension torque by 35%. During both the active-unassisted and active force-assisted conditions, any involuntary flexion movement was halted during a designated extension movement and the stroke subjects were able to try to extend their phalanxes further from this point. Providing this 'flexion catch' greatly increased the active extension degree of movement for all the fingers.
VIDEO 3: The video explains the major functions of the app.
GRAPH 7: The results revealed that the rehabilitation routine is capable of accelerating the rate of recovery by approximately 30%.
Neuro-ExoHeal will improve the medical rehabilitation process by introducing an affordable paralysis treatment. The patients after wearing the device for an extended period and by recording the observable changes, we were able to notice an improvement in the movement of their fingers suggesting the generation of useful neuroplasticity. Hence providing assistive forces inherently helps to counteract the muscle weakness. The rehabilitation routine is capable of accelerating the rate of recovery by approximately 30%. It solves the problems lacking in the already existent rehabilitation devices. The device with an emphasis on portability and functionality was capable of providing sufficient output force, comfortability and enough battery life to last a full day’s use. The sensory glove was able to accurately read and process the angle of flex in each phalanx with enough positional accuracy, which enabled the exoskeleton to assist the impaired hand in mirroring the same movement. The modular design of the exoskeletal hand created using a 3d printer allows for a device which can be reconﬁgured, re-positioned, and expanded upon to meet user requirements.
Thus, these results, along with the noticeable improvements and changes, support our hypothesis.
These arise the need for a more complex and sophisticated algorithm and design.
Globally, many people do not possess the ability to use their limbs, unable to perform simple tasks, they are forced to lead tough lives. The current rehabilitation devices are often bulky, slow, non-portable and require manual interaction with physical therapists that make the procedure labor‐intensive and raises costs. Neuro-ExoHeal solves these problems by being a portable device that works with the doctor's assistance via an app in multiple languages to bring it within reach of the highest fraction of individuals in need. As ExoHeal’s latest version Neuro-ExoHeal brings the cost to less than $200, it can help decrease expenses/increase family income, help patients get back their self-confidence and self-respect, as it allows them to use their limbs and gives them hope to lead normal lives. To summarize Neuro-ExoHeal possess the potential to change the world by substantially improving the lives of the paralyzed human being.
The next step is the extensive clinical evaluation of the device’s capabilities and recording the observable changes in neuroplasticity using state of the art machinery. Comfortability/compatibility can be further enhanced by using flexible materials such as “ninja flex”, providing the exoskeleton with the ability to conform to the patient’s hand over time. Complex mechanisms will be developed to achieve complete 21 Degrees of freedom(DOF) of the hand fingers.
Hi, my Name is Zain Ahmed Samdani. I am 18 years old, and I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
My interest in Robotics began with my mother. Seeing her busy with her household schedule and taking care of us which resulted in less time for herself, inspired me to create robots which could lessen her burden.
I'd describe myself as a robotic enthusiast and an expressive artist sparked by cartoons to make fiction a reality, and aid humanity. Believing is key! I also have a passion for poetry; It gives meaning to my thoughts and serves as motivation in tough times. I am also fascinated by the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Hello, My name is Faria Zubair. I am 16 years old, and I live in Riyadh Saudi Arabia.
I love Arts and Fashion designing, l would like to incorporate my passion with STEM to innovate unique apparels that help create solutions for a variety of problems. My idols include my mother and my brother. I’m also inspired by Sir Albert Einstein. His quote “Imagination encircles the world” motivates me to think differently.
I’m also an athlete. I was able to bag some medals at the India-Saudi Chapter CBSE Cluster Meet.
Winning an award in the Google Science Fair would undoubtedly be a huge step towards making a significant difference in the lives of paralyzed human beings. It'll bring us one step closer towards making hand disabilities less alarming.
We have worked at Make Real's workplace to 3D print the project.
Email Id: Rami@makereal.net
"If you are thankful, what do you do? You share"
W. Clement Stone
We would like to thank the following people for their valuable contribution to the growth of our project: