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Tue Nov 21 07:03:14 PST 2023

Medgadget (Medical Technology) Daily Digest (Unofficial)


( Stretchable E-Skin for Robotic Prostheses
Nov 20th 2023, 17:53

Engineers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with the Japanese automotive company Honda to develop an e-skin for robotic prostheses that allows such devices to sense their environment in significant detail. The soft skin is highly sensitive, letting robotic hands to perform tasks that require a significant degree of dexterity and tactile feedback, such as grasping an egg or lifting a glass of water without breaking it. The elastomer skin contains fixed and sliding pillars that allow it to buckle and wrinkle, like real skin. The skin contains four deformable capacitators that let it distinguish between normal and shear forces, meaning that it can finely control its interaction with grasped objects. The researchers hope that the technology will enhance robotic prostheses and allow users to expand the range of daily activities they can perform using their prosthetic devices.

Robotic prostheses are evolving, and sensors are required to evolve in tandem. Grasping delicate objects with a robotic hand could spell disaster without a sensor that can measure how much force is being applied and determine the correct amount of force to apply. After all, our own skin is highly attuned to the subtleties of the objects we touch. Skin-like sensors continue to progress, with a variety of technologies emerging in recent years that can permit robots and robotic prostheses to sense their environment more comprehensively.

This latest e-skin is highly sensitive, expanding the types of activities that are possible. “Our sensor can sense several types of forces, allowing a prosthetic or robotic arm to respond to tactile stimuli with dexterity and precision,” said Mirza Saquib Sarwar, a researcher involved in the study. “For instance, the arm can hold fragile objects like an egg or a glass of water without crushing or dropping them.”

The technology may also be useful for medical or assistive robots, such as those that care for the elderly, or even surgical robots that interact with soft tissues inside the body. “Our sensor uses weak electric fields to sense objects, even at a distance, much as touchscreens do,” said John Madden, another researcher involved in the study. “But unlike touchscreens, this sensor is supple and can detect forces into and along its surface. This unique combination is key to adoption of the technology for robots that are in contact with people.”

The skin is easy to fabricate at scale, and can be made in large sheets that can cover significant areas. However, the researchers are keen to stress that this technology will evolve much further in the future. “Human skin has a hundred times more sensing points on a fingertip than our technology does, making it easier to light a match or sew,” said Madden. “As sensors continue to evolve to be more skin-like, and can also detect temperature and even damage, there is a need for robots to be smarter about which sensors to pay attention to and how to respond. Developments in sensors and artificial intelligence will need to go hand in hand.”

Study in journal Scientific Reports: ( Touch, press and stroke: a soft capacitive sensor skin

Via: ( University of British Columbia

( Phone Attachment for Pupil Measurements with Any Skin Tone
Nov 20th 2023, 17:43

A research team at the University of California San Diego have developed a smartphone attachment that can provide information on changes in pupil size, which can be used to assess neurological phenomena, such as traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease. Such changes in pupil size have been difficult to characterize in the past in those with a dark iris, which is more common in people with darker skin tones, because it can be challenging to distinguish between the iris and the pupil. This latest smartphone attachment fits over the camera of a smartphone, and uses a filter to restrict the light entering the camera to far-red light. This makes the iris appear lighter in the resulting images, and helps the technology to distinguish between iris and pupil, providing more robust diagnostics for those with dark eyes.

Changes in pupil size can offer information on a variety of neurological conditions, including traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease, but our natural diversity in terms of skin tone and melanin content in the iris has meant that for those with dark eyes, it can be difficult to get an accurate measurement in pupil size changes.

“There has been a large issue with medical device design that depends on optical measurements ultimately working only for those with light skin and eye colors, while failing to perform well for those with dark skin and eyes,” said Edward Wang, one of the leaders of this research. “By focusing on how we can make this work for all people while keeping the solution simple and low cost, we aim to pave the way to a future of fair access to remote, affordable healthcare.”

Engineers within ophthalmology have known that conventional cameras are not suitable for pupil size measurements in those with dark eyes for some time. One answer has been to use infrared cameras, but such cameras are typically only present on high-end smartphones, which limits the pool of people who could use such technology. This latest device works with a conventional smartphone camera, and instead uses far-red light, which is still within the visible spectrum and therefore detectable with a regular camera.  

“The issue with relying on specialized sensors like an infrared camera is that not all phones have it,” said Colin Barry, another researcher involved in the project. “We created an inexpensive and fair solution to provide these kinds of emerging neurological screenings regardless of the smartphone price, make or model.”

The attachment is placed over the camera and then placed over the eye, where the camera flashes the eye with bright light and records video of the pupil movement. In tests so far, the device could assess pupil responses in a group of volunteers with different eye colors.  

Study in Scientific Reports: ( Racially fair pupillometry measurements for RGB smartphone cameras using the far red spectrum

Via: ( University of California San Diego 

Forwarded by:
Michael Reeder LCPC
Baltimore, MD

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