Scientific Reports (Dec 2021)

Comparison between rigid and soft poly-articulated prosthetic hands in non-expert myo-electric users shows advantages of soft robotics

  • Patricia Capsi-Morales,
  • Cristina Piazza,
  • Manuel G. Catalano,
  • Giorgio Grioli,
  • Lisa Schiavon,
  • Elena Fiaschi,
  • Antonio Bicchi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 15


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Abstract Notwithstanding the advancement of modern bionic hands and the large variety of prosthetic hands in the market, commercial devices still present limited acceptance and percentage of daily use. While commercial prostheses present rigid mechanical structures, emerging trends in the design of robotic hands are moving towards soft technologies. Although this approach is inspired by nature and could be promising for prosthetic applications, there is scant literature concerning its benefits for end-users and in real-life scenarios. In this work, we evaluate and assess the role and the benefits of soft robotic technologies in the field of prosthetics. We propose a thorough comparison between rigid and soft characteristics of two poly-articulated hands in 5 non-expert myo-electric prosthesis users in pre- and post-therapeutic training conditions. The protocol includes two standard functional assessments, three surveys for user-perception, and three customized tests to evaluate the sense of embodiment. Results highlight that rigid hands provide a more precise grasp, while soft properties show higher functionalities thanks to their adaptability to different requirements, intuitive use and more natural execution of activities of daily living. This comprehensive evaluation suggests that softness could also promote a quick integration of the system in non-expert users.