Meet the Tech Teams: DIPO Power
Monica Moreo is teamleader of DIPO Power, who will be competing in the Powered Arm Prosthesis Race.
How / when did you fist hear about Cybathlon?
We first heard about the Cybathlon in September 2015, when another team from Delft University advertised their project. They are competing in the Powered Exoskeleton Race.
What is your part of the team? Which race are you entered for?
I am the DIPO Power team leader and we compete in the Powered Arm Prosthesis Race.
What concerns could this particular race / discipline involve?
The hand is the most complex organ of the human body. The arm, in combination with the hand, enables dexterity and independence for activities of daily living (ADL). For those with upper-limb deficiency, such ADL become significantly more difficult. Available technology presents users with a choice of body-powered or externally-powered prosthetic devices, each of which have advantages and limitations. A major concern is the lack of feedback mechanisms in both designs, still far from the feedback allowed by the nervous and musculoskeletal system within a natural hand.
What is your motivation for joining in the Cybathlon? What was your motivation for following this line of research career?
Though prosthetics coverage in the news highlights the advances of myoelectric devices, we believe body-powered devices can provide inexpensive and effective prosthetic solutions for those with upper-limb deficiency. We decided to join in the Cybathlon to prove that a body-powered arm, besides being cheaper and easier to control, can also perform as well as or better than externally-powered devices.
Losing a hand is considered among one of the most traumatic events and it is highly debilitating. I decided to study biomechatronics and, in particular, hand prostheses because I strongly believe that providing an amputee with a proper, functional, cheap and customised prosthesis can make a huge change in his/her life.
What level of development is your technology at? When do you expect to have first trials?
Our technology is complete, functionality tests and trials have already been conducted with the Pilot.
Are you using a commercially available device or developing your own? What makes yours unique?
We are using a TRS Grip 5 prehensor, a customised self-suspended supracondylar socket with a forearm component and a wrist component and a high-performance Figure 9 harness and a Bowden cable-system. The components are already commercially available.
What makes the device unique is that it requires low-activation force, is capable of high pinching force, and the locking mechanism is highly functional. In addition, the shape of the prehensor allows for enhanced dexterity.
How did you find your pilot?
Our pilot, Bob Radocy, is the owner and founder of TRS Prosthetics. He has collaborated with Delft University of Technology, previously, and is well-known in the field of upper-limb prosthetic development. We considered him as a good candidate because of his knowledge about prostheses, his preference towards body-powered devices and his enthusiasm.
What are the challenges you face?
As active wrist rotation is not available with this prosthesis, some of the tasks are more challenging and our strategy must be adapted beyond natural motion.
What scientific question do you hope you can solve during development and training? What are your future hopes for the technology being displayed at Cybathlon?
Is a simple but well-designed body-powered prosthetic arm functionally competitive with a complex externally-powered prosthetic arm with regard to performing activities of daily living?
We believe that current body-powered prosthetic arms are still a good functional alternative to myoelectric arms, and we hope to demonstrate that a body-powered voluntary closing device can complete the race as well as, or better than, the externally-powered competition. For future developments, we hope to see a renewed research and development focus on body-powered prostheses, in addition to the externally-powered prosthesis.