Smart Sock Helps Restore Sensation for Amputees

It's easy to take for granted the sensation of touch. Thanks to a sensing wearable, those who use prosthetic limbss are enjoying new levels of sensory awareness.


Thanks to 3D printing and a range of other technologies, prosthetics have come a long way in terms of fit and function, giving amputees the freedom to experience the world in ways they used to, or perhaps never have before. Yet there has always been something missing from the experience: sensation.

Now, thanks to a new project devloped by University of Applied Sciences in Linz, Austria, this need is being addressed. The proCover, which was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s UIST conference, relies on smart fabric and haptic feedback to give lower limb prosthetic wearers a customized sense of touch. The technology makes it possible for the user to discriminate between touches that occur in different areas on the foot and adjust to pressure variability (for example, using a pedal). 

As explained in a TechCrunch article, the proCover makes use of a pressure-sensitive grid that covers the entire foot and ankle. Pressure on certain parts of the foot—in this case, a foot prosthetic—activates certain motors to vibrate at different frequencies, creating the sensation.

The team is currently testing the proCover and is exploring how to translate the technology into glove covers that would provide the same benefits for those using upper limb prosthetics.

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