Inflatable Robotic Hand Image
An inflatable robotic hand gives amputees real-time tactile control. The smart hand is soft and elastic, weighs about half a pound, and costs a fraction of comparable prosthetics. (Credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

Engineers at MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have designed a soft, lightweight, and potentially low-cost neuroprosthetic hand. The prosthetic, designed with a system for tactile feedback, restored some primitive sensation in a volunteer’s residual limb.

The smart hand weighs about half a pound. Its components total around $500 — a fraction of the weight and material cost associated with more rigid smart limbs.

Rather than controlling each finger using mounted electrical motors, as most neuroprosthetics do, a simple pneumatic system precisely inflates fingers and bends them in specific positions. This system, including a small pump and valves, can be worn at the waist, significantly reducing the prosthetic’s weight.