The Open Hand Project is an open source project with the goal of making robotic prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees.
The Dextrus hand is the realization of this goal, it's a robotic hand that can be put together for well under £650 ($1000) and offers much of the functionality of a human hand.
Who's it For?
The Dextrus hand is for anyone who wants an advanced robotic hand. This could be an amputee who wants a little more than a metal hook, a researcher who's looking into control systems for telepresence robots or perhaps a hobbyist who is making a humanoid robot.
How Does it Work?
The Dextrus hand works much like a human hand. It uses electric motors instead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. 3D printed plastic parts work like bones and a rubber coating acts as the skin. All of these parts are controlled by electronics to give it a natural movement that can handle all sorts of different objects.
The hand can be connected to an existing prosthesis using a standard connector to give an amputee another option. It uses stick-on electrodes to read signals from their remaining muscles, which can control the hand, telling it to open or close.
The fingers are individually powered and each one can sense when an object is impeding its movement. This gives it the ability to grasp objects gently and means the fingers can really wrap around unusual shapes to grip them firmly.What Has Been Done Already?
At the moment a full working prototype of the dextrus hand has been built. The core electronics have been bread-boarded and work, and the software has been prototyped on a PC. Everything works but it's not yet as mobile or as polished as it will become.What's Next?
The next thing to do will be to design and prototype the rest of the electronics and build everything onto printed circuit boards. The design of the hand needs to be refined and tested to make sure that it's robust and functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. National Instruments have generously provided test equipment to help with this process. National Instruments are the industry leaders in test and measurement, you can check out some of the great applications they've worked with here and here.