Empire Robotics, Inc., in collaboration with Liberating Technologies, Inc., is proposing to develop an adaptive prosthetic gripper enabled by the "jamming" of granular media. Empire Robotics has previously demonstrated the utility of the gripper's core technology-in which granular media contained in a flexible, impermeable membrane can transition between solid-like and fluid-like states by controlling the air pressure within the membrane-in industrial automation applications. When there is no differential pressure applied on the system, the gripper is soft and can passively conform to target objects. After deformation, air is evacuated from inside the membrane inducing a "jammed" rigid state to firmly grasp the object. Compared to existing terminal devices which often consist of rigid clamping jaws, the proposed gripper can improve the ease with which upper-limb amputees can perform activities of daily living (ADLs) in the home, and can also help amputees return to work. This proposal outlines three aims that are required to prove the feasibility of applying this novel gripping technology towards a commercially viable prosthetic terminal device: (1) to identify and evaluate the feasibility of critical jamming features (e.g., to optimize the grip-strength-to-weigh performance of the gripper);(2) to design and build a self-contained jamming prosthesis prototype;and (3) to receive preliminary feedback on the feasibility of the prosthesis prototype from clinicians and to conduct laboratory testing with amputee subjects.
This proposed project will benefit public health by developing an innovative robotic gripper that can be used to improve the ease with which upper-limb amputees can perform activities of daily living. This can improve the quality of life for many individuals in the U.S.