An ultrasound prosthesis will allow a disabled musician to play the piano again

5 years ago, James Barnes had his right arm amputated above the elbow after a severe electrical injury. However, some muscles still partially retained the functions of controlling the fingers. This was used by a team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology led by Gil Weinberg. They developed a prosthesis that allowed James to play the piano.

The prosthesis uses electromyogram sensors, which are found in both conventional and advanced prostheses. These sensors use electrodes to record electrical signals from the muscles. However, according to Gil Weinberg, they are not very accurate.

“The sensors record the movement of muscles, ” he explains, “but this signal is too“ noisy ”, which does not allow us to accurately determine which of the fingers a person is going to move. We tried to improve on the EMG (Electro-Magnetic Generator) prosthesis made especially for James, but we were unable to achieve precise control. "

To improve the result, Weinberg teamed up with colleagues at Georgia Tech. They decided to attach an ultrasound probe to the muscles of the arm, which is usually used for ultrasound.

The work of the muscles observed in this way makes it possible to highlight the movements related to each finger. These patterns were included in a machine learning algorithm, with the help of which the system learned to guess which finger Barnes was going to move and even how much effort he was going to spend on it.

By combining ultrasonic sensors and algorithms, Weinberg and his colleagues created a prosthesis that allows you to control each finger separately. As a result, James Barnes was able to perform a song from the TV series "Star Wars" on the piano, thereby paying tribute to the bionic arm of Luke Skywalker.