engineers at MIT and shanghai jiao tong university have created a soft, lightweight and potentially low-cost neuroprosthetic hand. resembling the inflatable robot in the animated film big hero 6, the artificial hand is made of a soft, stretchy material, together with a simple pneumatic system that inflates fingers and bends them in specific positions. 


‘this is not a product yet, but the performance is already similar or superior to existing neuroprosthetics, which we’re excited about,’ said xuanhe zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at MIT. ‘there’s huge potential to make this soft prosthetic very low cost, for low-income families who have suffered from amputation.’

MIT engineers create inflatable robotic hand with real-time tactile control
an MIT-developed inflatable robotic hand gives amputees real-time tactile control. the smart hand is soft and elastic, weighs about half a pound, and costs a fraction of comparable prosthetics
image courtesy of the researchers


the inflatable robotic hand was tested by amputees, who were able to perform everyday tasks like zipping a suitcase, pouring a carton of juice, and petting a cat. designed with a system of tactile feedback, the prosthetic restored some primitive sensation in a volunteer’s residual limb. the system, which includes a small pump and valves, is worn at the waist, reducing the prosthetic’s weight. this system inflates the fingers in positions that mimic common grasps, like pinching two or three fingers and making a cup out of the palm.


‘we now have four grasp types. there can be more,zhao concluded. ‘this design can be improved, with better decoding technology, higher-density myoelectric arrays, and a more compact pump that could be worn on the wrist. we also want to customize the design for mass production, so we can translate soft robotic technology to benefit society.’



project info:


name: inflatable robotic hand

created by: engineers at MIT and shanghai jiao tong university

more info: here