Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have developed devices that could be used to rehabilitate the arms and hands of people who have had a stroke.
The three devices — a ‘vibration’ tactile device, a ‘motor-driven squeezer’ device and ‘shape memory alloy’ device — generate a realistic sense of touch and sensation, mimicking those involved in everyday activities.
The devices were tested on participants who had had a stroke and on healthy participants.
When the vibration tactile device was used, participants felt that it provided a good indication of touch, but did not feel as if they were holding anything.
When motor-driven squeezer device was used, participants felt like they were holding something, a bit like catching a ball.
Participants using the shape memory alloy device, which has thermal properties, reported that it created a sensation like picking up a cup of tea.
Study author Dr Geoff Merrett said this technology can be used on its own as a stand-alone system to help with sensory rehabilitation.
“It also could be used alongside existing health technologies such as rehabilitation robots or gaming technologies that help patient rehabilitation, ” Merrett said.