Aaron Yurkewich, Student Member, IEEE, Debbie Hebert, Rosalie H. Wang, Alex Mihailidis
Robotic hand orthoses can assist stroke survivors to extend and flex their fingers to perform bimanual daily tasks independently. The assistance and monitoring capabilities of robot orthoses can be incorporated in occupational therapy programs to understand how the affected limb and robot are being used in the clinic and at home. Key attributes requested by therapists and stroke survivors are that the robot orthosis enables stroke survivors with severe hand impairment to grasp and stabilize daily objects, and that the device is portable, lightweight, comfortable, aesthetically-pleasing, and easy to set up and use.
The Hand Extension Robot Orthosis Glove (HERO Glove) was designed to address these key attributes and consists of a batting glove with tendons embedded into the fingers. The tendons are pulled by linear actuators to extend and flex the fingers. The robot’s finger extension and grasp assistance is automated using a controller based on inertial measurement unit (IMU) signal thresholds. Five stroke survivors (Chedoke McMaster Stroke Assessment – Stage of Hand: 1-4) put on the HERO Glove with 1-3 minutes of assistance. These stroke survivors performed significantly better on the Box and Block Test (2.8 (1.3) block increase, p=0.004) while wearing the HERO Glove than when not wearing the glove, with their arm gravity-supported. The HERO Glove enabled stroke survivors to better extend their fingers and grasp a water bottle, which was not possible without the HERO Glove’s assistance.
Therapists and stroke survivors valued the glove’s portability, light weight, compact size, similarity in style to consumer products, and potential usefulness in assisting with task-based therapy. Our future work will be to integrate the HERO Glove into a home therapy program to study how well it can motivate arm and hand use and enhance neuromuscular recovery after stroke.