What’s Next? – Xan

I’ll start with the good news: the control system for the hand is in a very good place. All of the tests that I’ve done so far have worked very well, and I have some rudimentary hand control code working. The prototype control system is basically done — it just has to be implemented.

That’s the bad news. We do not (as of yet) have a mechanical, motor-driven hand that I can link to the control system that I’ve been developing. All this means is that I’ll have a lot of work in the weeks ahead. This increase in workload will probably make the blog more interesting! (More content!) Or less? It will depend entirely on how much you like mechanics, design, and engineering. Read on for some basic information about the next few months.

I’ll start by saying that, since I’ve just gotten back to school after a month in Calabria, Italy, I don’t have much in the way of new content. The biggest thing that I’ve done since I’ve gotten back is more coding, to be able to support multiple EMG readers at the same time. I’ve also purchased a few more muscle sensors (At about $25 each from SparkFun (way cheaper than the $50 I spent on my first one!)), along with some other test equipment. Not sure if I mentioned all of that in my last post, but there you go!

In the coming weeks I’ll be focused on the following:

1. Setting up a meeting with the recipient of the hand to test the EMG control system that I’ve developed so far. I’ll have to tweak the code slightly to allow for persistent data collection, and maybe “offline” graphing (which shouldn’t be too hard). With the meeting, we’ll be able to see how effective the control system is, and what areas may need improvement. A concern that many people have had about these tests is based around the fact that our recipient was born without their hand, and therefore may be unable to activate the sensor with his forearm muscles. A reasonable concern, I suppose, but I’m not worried. This technology already exists and works for many who use prosthetic devices, and even if the forearm muscles are unreadable, other muscles can be used. For example, chest and shoulder muscles have been used in some cases to great success.

2. I’m going to have a meeting with my mentor to discuss the design of the hand. A discussion of the hand’s mechanical design is something that the hand group has put off for far too long, and it’s high time we talked about it. This whole design and prototype process will likely occupy the bulk of my time left at Westtown, and I doubt that an entirely new design can be produced in just a few weeks. This leads me to thing #3.

3. Modifying one of the current 3D printed hands to use a motor based control system. I will try to find, buy, and install a motor in the palm of the current hand, to get a working prototype of the full hand. This will likely be presented at the end of the year…

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but so much progress has been made! I’m hopeful for the future of the project.

GitHub will be updated soon, probably. Soon.

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