Title: Supernumerary robotic finger and mobile arm support: from grasp compensation to hemiparetic upper limb rehabilitation
In this paper, we present the combination of our soft supernumerary robotic finger i.e. Soft-SixthFinger with a commercially available zero gravity arm support, the SaeboMAS. The overall proposed system can provide the needed assistance during paretic upper limb rehabilitation involving both grasping and arm mobility to solve task-oriented activities. The Soft-SixthFinger is a wearable robotic supernumerary finger designed to be used as an active assistive device by post stroke patients to compensate the paretic hand grasp. The device works jointly with the paretic hand/arm to grasp an object similarly to the two parts of a robotic gripper. The SaeboMAS is a commercially available mobile arm support to neutralize gravity effects on the paretic arm specifically designed to facilitate and challenge the weakened shoulder muscles during functional tasks. The proposed system has been designed to be used during the rehabilitation phase when the arm is potentially able to recover its functionality, but the hand is still not able to perform a grasp due to the lack of an efficient thumb opposition. The overall system also act as a motivation tool for the patients to perform task-oriented rehabilitation activities.
With the aid of proposed system, the patient can closely simulate the desired motion with the non-functional arm for rehabilitation purposes, while performing a grasp with the help of the Soft-SixthFinger. As a pilot study we tested the proposed system with a chronic stroke patient to evaluate how the mobile arm support in conjunction with a robotic supernumerary finger can help in performing the tasks requiring the manipulation of grasped object through the paretic arm. In particular, we performed the Frenchay Arm Test (FAT) and Box and Block Test (BBT). The proposed system successfully enabled the patient to complete tasks which were previously impossible to perform.