The Squid Shirt that we checked out earlier today at Northeastern University certainly has the potential for healthcare use beyond straight off-season workout sessions, but the ATLAS project is an even purer expression of that application. The name is an acronym for the rather unwieldy Angle Tracking and Location At home System. In short, the system is a bimanual-rehabilitation glove system, a tracking device that utilizes two gloves to monitor the hand movements of stroke victims. The "Home System," part of the name, meanwhile, signifies its creators' intention to eventually release the ATLAS as an at-home testing system, allowing users to get more regular readings than industrial versions.
The system is comprised of two standard black gloves -- the first version (it's currently on version three), assistant academic specialist Mark Sivak tells us, was comprised of gold lycra gloves. The gloves have bend sensors in each finger and internal measurement sensors on the back of the hand. The bend sensors are anchored on the back of the hand, located beneath a moveable flap. They're embedded in the glove, running down each finger. The hand orientation inertial sensor is comprised of an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer located on a box strapped to the top of the glove. The bend sensors feed straight into a box with an Arduino Mega inside, while the inertial sensors first pass through their own Arduino microcontrollers before rejoining the data feed back to the PC.
ATLAS bimanual-rehabilitation gloves hands-on
The box feeds into a PC via a serial connection. The lab has developed a handful of applications to monitor movement. The one we saw featured a render of an arm developed using the Unity game engine, measuring just the inflection and extension wrist movements. When the demo was functioning properly, there was zero lag between our movement and the mirrored image on the laptop screen. However, the prototype's connections were being finicky and calibrating it required holding your hand out perfectly level for several seconds, something that might be difficult for a stroke victim to do. With that in mind a pair of wrist rests are provided to offer a platform for placing your appendages. A finger bending demo, that sadly wasn't working at the moment, involves geometric cubes which grow and shrink as you squeeze your fist tighter. As mentioned above, ATLAS's creators envision the device as something that might someday hit the market for home use, priced at around $500 to $1,000, compared to hospital units that can run as much as $20,000 and aren't natively bimanual. The product is also designed to be more intuitive and safer for home use, the later of which is thanks in part to a lack of magnetic tracking, which can have all manner of averse effects, like interfering with pacemakers.
The packaging together of both right and left units also marks an improvement over many models, utilizing tracking that can be helpful for two-handed activities like putting on a jacket or opening a jar -- things stroke victims often use other parts of the body for, in order to compensate for lost movement. The problem there is that compensation can lead to other injuries as the stress normally put on one muscle is shifted to another less ideal for that range of motion.