Italian researchers develop lighter, cheaper robotic hand


ROME (AP) — Italian researchers today unveiled a new robotic hand they say allows users to grip objects more naturally and featuring a design that will lower the price significantly.

The Hennes robotic hand has a simpler mechanical design compared with other such myoelectric prosthetics, characterized by sensors that react to electrical signals from the brain to the muscles, said researcher Lorenzo De Michieli. He helped develop the hand in a lab backed by the Italian Institute of Technology and the INAIL state workers' compensation prosthetic center.

The Hennes has only one motor that controls all five fingers, making it lighter, cheaper and more able to adapt to the shape of objects.

"This can be considered low-cost because we reduce to the minimum the mechanical complexity to achieve, at the same time, a very effective grasp, and a very effective behavior of the prosthesis," De Michieli said. "We maximized the effectiveness of the prosthetics and we minimized the mechanical complexity."

They plan to bring it to market in Europe next year with a target price of around $11,900, about 30 percent below current market prices.

Arun Jayaraman, a robotic prosthetic researcher at the Shirley Ryan Ability lab in Chicago, said the lighter design could help overcome some resistance in users to the myoelectric hands, which to date have been too heavy for some. Italian researchers say the Hennes weighs about the same as a human hand.

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