TitleExploring Stiffness Modulation in Prosthetic Hands and Its Perceived Function in Manipulation and Social Interaction.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsCapsi-Morales, P, Piazza, C, Catalano, MG, Bicchi, A, Grioli, G
JournalFrontiers in Neurorobotics
Date Published06/2020
Keywordshuman-robot social interaction, impedance control, prosthetics, Soft robotics, task adaptability

To physically interact with a rich variety of environments and to match situation-dependent requirements, humans adapt both the force and stiffness of their limbs. Reflecting this behavior in prostheses may promote a more natural and intuitive control and, consequently, improve prostheses acceptance in everyday life. This pilot study proposes a method to control a prosthetic robot hand and its impedance, and explores the utility of variable stiffness when performing activities of daily living and physical social interactions. The proposed method is capable of a simultaneous and proportional decoding of position and stiffness intentions from two surface electro-myographic sensors placed over a pair of antagonistic muscles. The feasibility of our approach is validated and compared to existing control modalities in a preliminary study involving one prosthesis user. The algorithm is implemented in a soft under-actuated prosthetic hand (SoftHand Pro). Then, we evaluate the usability of the proposed approach while executing a variety of tasks. Among these tasks, the user interacts with other 12 able-bodied subjects, whose experiences were also assessed. Several statistically significant aspects from the System Usability Scale indicate user's preference of variable stiffness control over low or high constant stiffness due to its reactivity and adaptability. Feedback reported by able-bodied subjects reveal a general tendency to favor soft interaction, i.e., low stiffness, which is perceived more human-like and comfortable. These combined results suggest the use of variable stiffness as a viable compromise between firm control and safe interaction which is worth investigating further.

Short TitleExploring Stiffness Modulation in Prosthetic Hand
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