An engineering graduate hopes to aid millions of people after helping create a robotic glove which uses artificial intelligence to boost muscle grip.
Seeing his aunt’s struggles with daily tasks such as drinking water or changing TV channel after loss of movement caused by multiple sclerosis led Ross O’Hanlon, 24, to produce the device.
The glove detects the wearer’s intention to grip by using electromyography (EMG) to measure electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle.
It then employs an algorithm to convert the intention into force, helping the user to hold an item or apply the necessary pressure to complete an activity.
The technology is expected to help with a range of daily tasks including opening jars, driving and making tea.
The glove is the first product from BioLiberty, a Scottish start-up Mr O’Hanlon co-founded with three other engineering graduates.
It is aimed at the 2.5 million people in the UK suffering from hand weakness through illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and carpal tunnel syndrome – as well those who have lost muscle mass loss due to age.
Mr O’Hanlon, from Newry in Northern Ireland, 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.”
The team have created a working prototype and have now secured support from Edinburgh Business School’s Incubator, based at Heriot-Watt University which Mr O’Hanlon said is a “huge boost”.
Due to the pandemic, the team is working from home in Edinburgh, Belfast and London but plan to return to the Business School once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
“We’re confident that support of this type will help accelerate the glove into homes more quickly,” Mr O’Hanlon added.
“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.”
Kallum Russell, Edinburgh Business School business incubator manager, said the programme will help support growth by providing networking events, mentoring, virtual seminars and speaker opportunities.
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.”