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Shared human–robot proportional control of a dexterous myoelectric prosthesis


Myoelectric prostheses allow users to recover lost functionality by controlling a robotic device with their remaining muscle activity. Such commercial devices can give users a high level of autonomy, but still do not approach the dexterity of the intact human hand. Here we present a method to control a robotic hand, shared between user intention and robotic automation. The algorithm allows user-controlled movements when high dexterity is desired, but also assisted grasping when robustness is paramount. This combination of features is currently lacking in commercial prostheses and can greatly improve prosthesis usability. First, we design and test a myoelectric proportional controller that can predict multiple joint angles simultaneously and with high accuracy. We then implement online control with both able-bodied and amputee subjects. Finally, we present a shared control scheme in which robotic automation aids in object grasping by maximizing the contact area between the hand and the object, greatly increasing grasp success and object hold times in both a virtual and a physical environment. Our results present a viable method of prosthesis control implemented in real time, for reliable articulation of multiple simultaneous degrees of freedom.

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Fig. 1: Experimental set-up and subjects.
Fig. 2: Analysis of online prediction performance of the MLP.
Fig. 3: Shared control in a virtual environment, set-up and results.
Fig. 4: Shared control results in virtual environment, continued from Fig. 3.
Fig. 5: Shared control in a physical environment, set-up and results.
Fig. 6: EMG analysis with and without shared control.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information. All datasets generated for this study (EMG signals, variables recorded from the virtual and real hands during the experiments, and decoding algorithms) are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Code availability

The MATLAB code used for data analysis and synthesis of results presented in this study is available at Data collection code is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We acknowledge B. Wester, F. Tenore and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for providing the Virtual Integration Environment, which was developed on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics programme under contract no. N66001-10-C-4056. We also thank F. Iberite for his assistance in conducting experiments and A. Devillars for the development of the Unity model of the hand. This project was partly funded by the Swiss National Competence Center for Research in Robotics, by the Bertarelli Foundation and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska Curie grant agreement no. 750947 (project BIREHAB).

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Authors and Affiliations



K.Z.Z. and E.F. designed and carried out experiments 1 and 2, and performed analysis of data. A.B. and S.M. were responsible for planning and supervising the work. N.S. provided code and expertise for the shared controller and contributed greatly to experimental set-up. V.M. and F.A. developed the decoding algorithm for experiment 3. V.M., F.A. and S.A. performed the system integration. V.M. and S.A. performed all of the trials for experiment 3. E.D’A. aided in experimentation, G.G., G.C. and W.R. were clinical liaisons and F.P. supervised experiment 1. K.Z.Z., V.M. and S.A. wrote the manuscript and designed figures. N.S., E.F., E.D’A., A.B., F.A. and S.M. contributed critical feedback to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Silvestro Micera.

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Competing interests

S.M. and F.P. are co-founders of Sensars Neuroprosthetics, a small company working on the commericalization of bidirectional hand prostheses.

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Zhuang, K.Z., Sommer, N., Mendez, V. et al. Shared human–robot proportional control of a dexterous myoelectric prosthesis. Nat Mach Intell 1, 400–411 (2019).

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