A Way To Track Prosthesis Use Without Electronics

Engineers at the University of Wisconsin have developed 3-D printed gears that are able to track and store information without the use of electronics. The system uses a method called backscatter, through which a device, including a prosthesis, can share information by reflecting signals that are transmitted to it with an antenna.

The system uses 2 antennas that can be contacted by a switch attached to a gear. Movement is captured when the switch contacts one of the two antennas, and the teeth of each gear carry specific messages.

“The gear’s teeth have a specific sequencing that encodes a message. It’s like Morse code,” said co-author Justin Chan, a doctoral student in the Allen School. “So, when you turn the cap in one direction, you see the message going forward. But when you turn the cap in the other direction, you get a reverse message.”

The team also printed an e-NABLE prosthetic hand with a prototype of their bidirectional sensor that monitors the hand opening and closing by determining the angle of the wrist.

“This system will give us a higher-fidelity picture of what is going on,” said co-author Jennifer Mankoff, PhD, a professor in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Ultimately what I’d like to do with these data is predict whether or not people are going to abandon a device based on how they’re using it.”

The next step in the research is to reduce the size for more real-world testing, Mankoff said.

University of Washington
The O&P Edge