Over the past year and a half, the e-NABLE community volunteers have been working on ideas and solutions for the creation of open-source myo-electric arm and hand designs, experimenting with EMG sensors and trying to come up with ways to create devices for those who do not have functional elbows or wrists to power the most current 3D printable designs.
A team of students at the University of WA Bothell, have recently been working on creating source code that can be used with an off the shelf product called the Myo-Band, that can sense the electrical activity in the muscles of the person who is wearing it. Originally, this wearable tech item was created by Thalmic Labs, to be a general-purpose, simple control interface between people and computers, RC cars and other electronics.
Using the Myo Gesture Control Armband, a Raspberry Pi , Arduino and servos, the Myo band senses the muscle movements and passes the signals to the Raspberry Pi where they are then interpreted and sent into the Arduino as commands for the servo control.
Watch the video below to see a demonstration of the code in action.
Because the Myo band is an off-the-shelf product with integrated EMG sensors, at a reasonable price point, the students thought it would be a potentially good, low-cost solution for robotic and bionic prosthetic arm control.
As the e-NABLE Community has developed their designs over the past 2 years, they are continually attempting to create devices out of materials and hardware that can be easily sourced in numerous countries and the students at UWB were working along the same thought process. The Myo-band is available to purchase in many locations around the world where many of our volunteers are located.
UWB students, Brian Gonzales-Montoya (Mechanical Engineer), Celeste Salvo (Biology), Kiran Gurjala (Computer Science and Mathematics), Adam Zhu (Interest in Electrical & Mechanical engineering), Molly Herbert, (Law), Alex Lee (Interest in Computer Science), Saleh Matt (Interest in Business & engineering), Randa Mustafa (Mechanical Engineer) and Stefano Borghi (Electrical engineer), collaborated on this project with the guidance of their mentors UWB Lab manager, Ivan Owen and UWB professor Pierre Mourad.
Ivan is the co-designer of the first 3D printable assistive device that is the building block for current e-NABLE devices. He shares, “The student team at UWB put a lot of time into exploring and developing this initial solution. If other groups around the world are interested, they could benefit from using this code, so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch. Other areas that would be interesting would be hacking the Myo band by dismantling it so that the sensors could be placed on other muscles (like shoulder muscles) to allow people to control the hand/arm with other parts of their bodies.“
He goes on to say, “Some of the students in this group worked on this project for research credits but others participated without applying for official credit because they simply wanted to experience of working on this project.“
“This could be helpful to the e-NABLE Community as well as to the other groups working on 3D printable powered arm designs, such as Limbitless Solutions, Open Bionics and Exiii who are already using Ardruinos to control their servos.” said Ivan, “If they find this code to be useful or want to experiment with it, it could be integrated into their platforms without them having to substantially switch the technologies they are already using.“
“The students haven’t invented a new technology, but what they’ve succeeded in doing is recreating a technology that is usually very expensive.” said Ivan. “The robotic arms that are currently in use, all cost between $30,000 to $60,000, sometimes even more than that.”
“Everything was bought from Amazon,” said Kiran Gurajala, a member of the UWB team, “It cost roughly under $500 to create.”
Back in January of 2013, Ivan had shared the files for the first 3D printed hand design into the public domain and the open-source community, in hopes that others who had greater knowledge and skill sets, would take the design, improve upon it and re-share it back into the world once again.
He understood that some ideas need to be shared with others who have a stronger aptitude for such things, have more time to devote to the work and more experience with tools and technology than he did. He understood that by sharing ideas with others, they together could take a “good idea” and make it an “Incredible” one. Sometimes, in order to see something grow into its full potential, you have to know when to give it away and let someone else take over.
This has been the “way” of the entire e-NABLE Community over the past 3 years and something that Ivan imparts upon his students when he works with them on projects such as this.
Ideas are shared, “ah-ha” moments are had and the giving and sharing cycle continues. It has been incredible to see the innovation that goes on in the maker community, the schools that are participating in this project and from the recipients themselves.
If you are interested in using the code created by the students at UW Bothell – you can find the currently available instructions and code HERE.
• the Raspberry Pi
• the Arduino
• Various servos
The team is unable to provide any further support beyond this initial release, due to this project ending, school schedules and moving on to other projects or graduating, but their hope is that the e-NABLE Community and others will take this code and improve upon it and re-share it back into the world and keep the cycle and heart of open-source sharing circling back around, over and over again.
If you take this code and use it and improve upon it – please share and let us know! We would love to see what the world can do with this and how it may help improve the lives of others!