A novel solution to compensate hand grasping abilities has been proposed for chronic stroke patients. The goal is to provide the patients with a wearable robotic extra-finger that can be worn on the paretic forearm by means of an elastic band. The proposed prototype, the Robotic Sixth Finger, is a modular articulated device that can adapt its structure to the grasped object shape. The extra-finger and the paretic hand act like the two parts of a gripper cooperatively holding an object. We evaluated the feasibility of the approach with four chronic stroke patients performing a qualitative test, the Frenchay Arm Test. In this proof of concept study, the use of the Robotic Sixth Finger has increased the total score of the patients of 2 points in a 5 points scale. The subjects were able to perform the two grasping tasks included in the test that were not possible without the robotic extra-finger. Adding a robotic opposing finger is a very promising approach that can significantly improve the functional compensation of the chronic stroke patient during everyday life activities.
The early access version of the paper can be found here.