Skip to main content

Thought-controlled robotic hand can play games of rock-paper-scissors

finger motion

Researchers at Japan’s Hiroshima University have developed a robot prosthetic hand, controllable using only a wearer’s thoughts. The low-cost 3D-printed creation can perform a wide variety of hand gestures, and even engage in a game of rock-paper-scissors. The engineers who developed it hope that it could be used by people who have lost limbs, either through illness or accidents.

“Prosthetic hands are prescribed to patients who have suffered an amputation of the upper limb due to an accident or a disease,” Toshio Tsuji, a professor in Hiroshima’s Department of System Cybernetics, told Digital Trends. “In particular, myoelectric prosthetic hands are a type of externally powered prostheses and use electromyogram (EMG) signals, which are generated by muscle contractions reflecting a human’s internal state and motion intentions. To realize a myoelectric prosthetic hand comparable to human hands, it is necessary to achieve both the high-accuracy estimation of the user’s motion intentions from measured EMG signals and natural [and] smooth operability based on the estimated motion.”

Hiroshima University

The hand developed by the researchers responds to the wishes of the wearer; using machine learning technology to decode their EMG signals. These involuntarily created EMG signals are gathered through the wearer’s skin using electrodes in the device. The process is similar to how an electrocardiogram measures heart rate. The signals are then sent to the computer, which uses machine learning technology to quickly (within five milliseconds) work out what movement the hand should make. It then sends the necessary electrical signals to the motors in the hand.

The results are impressively accurate and can generate an impressively smooth range of motions as required. To put the hand through its paces, the researchers settled on making it play rock-paper-scissors, in which the wearer imagines a hand movement, while another robot hand challenges with them by performing a competing sign. In addition, the hand can be used to pick up water bottles or shake a person’s hand.

As a practical tool, there’s still more to be done. For example, while it’s possible to use the hand to turn doorknobs, this can only be done when the doors are not heavy. That’s because the hand is able to generate just 0.5 kgf (kilogram-force) of a normal maximal grasping force. Nonetheless, the team is currently searching for a commercial partner who could help develop the project further and bring it to market.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Science Robotics.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more