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New microchip technology gives artificial limb users more movement


Advanced Control Research Ltd (ACR) is developing a new microchip system that will give prosthetic arm users more movement and control of their artificial limbs thanks to an Invention & Innovation award of £65,000 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts), the organisation that invests in UK creativity and innovation.

The ACR system uses myoelectric technology to transfer the user’s thought processes into a range of movements. It does this by interpreting electrical signals generated when muscles contract and relax and translating these signals into physical movements of a prosthetic limb. The ACR system is unique in that it can identify up to four different signals from a single site on the arm, unlike existing systems that recognises only one. Therefore, a user of the ACR chipset will be able to turn a wrist or elbow in addition to opening and closing a grip.

Preliminary user trials are indicating that the system is easy to learn and that its superior analysis of electrical signals could make myoelectric technology available to a wider range of people. Future developments could include larger numbers of distinct motions and groups of movements for particular situations such as the kitchen, car or workplace.

NESTA support, over one year, will enable ACR to complete develop a prototype system to be marketed to manufacturers and distributors of prosthetic upper limbs.

Jeremy Newton, NESTA Chief Executive, said:

“ACR is a wonderful example of the type of innovation that can go unseen in the UK, the type of new idea, method or product that NESTA is here to support. It is essential that ACR is given the financial means to fully realise this idea quickly if it is to retain its global lead and competitive edge in the application of its technology to prosthetic hands.”

As with all Invention & Innovation awards, NESTA has taken a stake in this project and any returns that are generated will be ploughed back into the Invention & Innovation programme.

Joseph Meaney | alfa
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