The Utility of Synthetic Reflexes and Haptic Feedback for Upper-Limb Prostheses in a Dexterous Task Without Direct Vision

Neha Thomas

Farimah Fazlollahi

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker

Jeremy D. Brown

Individuals who use myoelectric upper-limb prostheses often rely heavily on vision to complete their daily activities. They thus struggle in situations where vision is overloaded, such as multitasking, or unavailable, such as poor lighting conditions. Non-amputees can easily accomplish such tasks due to tactile reflexes and haptic sensation guiding their upper-limb motor coordination. Based on these principles, we developed and tested two novel prosthesis systems that incorporate autonomous controllers and provide the user with touch-location feedback through either vibration or distributed pressure. These capabilities were made possible by installing a custom contact-location sensor on the fingers of a commercial prosthetic hand, along with a custom pressure sensor on the thumb. We compared the performance of the two systems against a standard myoelectric prosthesis and a myoelectric prosthesis with only autonomous controllers in a difficult reach-to-pick-and-place task conducted without direct vision. Results from 40 non-amputee participants in this between subjects study indicated that vibrotactile feedback combined with synthetic reflexes proved significantly more advantageous than the standard prosthesis in several of the task milestones. In addition, vibrotactile feedback and synthetic reflexes improved grasp placement compared to only synthetic reflexes or pressure feedback combined with synthetic reflexes. These results indicate that both autonomous controllers and haptic feedback facilitate success in dexterous tasks without vision, and that the type of haptic display matters.


This publication uses EMG which is fully integrated into iMotions Lab

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