Upper limb amputees lack the valuable tactile sensing that helps provide context about the surrounding environment. Here we utilize tactile information to provide active touch feedback to a prosthetic hand. First, we developed fingertip tactile sensors for producing biomimetic spiking responses for monitoring contact, release, and slip of an object grasped by a prosthetic hand. We convert the sensor output into pulses, mimicking the rapid and slowly adapting spiking responses of receptor afferents found in the human body. Second, we designed and implemented two neuromimetic event-based algorithms, Compliant Grasping and Slip Prevention, on a prosthesis to create a local closed-loop tactile feedback control system (i.e. tactile information is sent to the prosthesis). Grasping experiments were designed to assess the benefit of this biologically inspired neuromimetic tactile feedback to a prosthesis. Results from able-bodied and amputee subjects show the average number of objects that broke or slipped during grasping decreased by over 50% and the average time to complete a grasping task decreased by at least 10% for most trials when comparing neuromimetic tactile feedback with no feedback on a prosthesis. Our neuromimetic method of closed-loop tactile sensing is a novel approach to improving the function of upper limb prostheses.
Keywords: Prosthetics; force feedback; neuromimetic; real-time control.