A 24-year-old who watched as his aunt struggled to drink water or change the TV channel after multiple sclerosis limited her movement has created a robotic glove which he hopes will help those in similar situations.
Ross O’Hanlon’s robotic glove uses artificial intelligence to boost muscle grip using electromyography (EMG).
EMG measures electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle, converting the intention into force, allowing them to hold items and apply necessary pressure to them.
It’s expected that the technology will help users complete many daily tasks, such as making tea, opening jars and driving.
It’s the first product created by BioLiberty – a Scottish start-up founded by Ross and three other engineering graduates.
There are 2.5 million people in the UK who suffer from hand weakness. Illnesses such as motor neurone disease, carpal tunnel syndrome and multiple sclerosis cause such symptoms, as does muscle mass loss due to age.
Ross said: “Being an engineer, I decided to use technology to tackle these challenges head on with the aim of helping people like my aunt to retain their autonomy.
“As well as those affected by illness, the population continues to age and this places increasing pressure on care services. We wanted to support independent living and healthy aging by enabling individuals to live more comfortably in their own homes for longer.
“While there are many gadgets on the market that address a specific grip challenge such as tools to help open jars, I wanted an all-encompassing solution to support a range of daily tasks.”
A working prototype of the glove has been developed, and the team have secured support from Edinburgh Business School’s Incubator, based at Heriot-Watt University.
Ross says that the support is a “huge boost” which should “accelerate the glove into homes more quickly.”
“The Edinburgh Business School Incubator has an incredible programme for early-stage businesses like ours, supporting challenges all new companies face including the drive for additional funding, marketing, networking, scaling and forging collaborations,” Ross said.
The programme will help support growth by providing networking events, mentoring, virtual seminars and speaker opportunities according to Kallum Russell, Edinburgh Business School business incubator manager.
He said: “As the impact of the pandemic further erodes the economy, access to support services for business owners has been curtailed.
“As a result, incubators like ours are even more valuable in supporting the development of innovative new products and services which will help drive economic recovery and growth.”