The quest for an intuitive and physiologically appropriate human machine interface for the control of dexterous prostheses is far from being completed. In the last decade, much effort has been dedicated to explore innovative control strategies based on the electrical signals generated by the muscles during contraction. In contrast, a novel approach, dubbed myokinetic interface, derives the control signals from the localization of multiple magnetic markers (MMs) directly implanted into the residual muscles of the amputee. Building on this idea, here we present an embedded system based on 32 magnetic field sensors and a real time computation platform. We demonstrate that the platform can simultaneously localize in real-time up to five MMs in an anatomically relevant workspace. The system proved highly linear (R2 = 0.99) and precise (1% repeatability), yet exhibiting short computation times (4 ms) and limited cross talk errors (10% the mean stroke of the magnets). Compared to a previous PC implementation, the system exhibited similar precision and accuracy, while being ~75% faster. These results proved for the first time the viability of using an embedded system for magnet localization. They also suggest that, by using an adequate number of sensors, it is possible to increase the number of simultaneously tracked MMs while introducing delays that are not perceivable by the human operator. This could allow to control more degrees of freedom than those controllable with current technologies.
Keywords: embedded control system; hand prosthesis; magnetic sensors; myokinetic controller; passive magnetic markers.