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This paper provides a comprehensive computational account of hand-centered research, which is principles, methodologies and practical issues behind human hands, robot hands, rehabilitation hands, prosthetic hands and their applications. In order to help readers understand hand-centered research, this paper presents recent scientific findings and technologies including human hand analysis and synthesis, hand motion capture, recognition algorithms and applications, it serves the purpose of how to transfer human hand manipulation skills to related hand-centered applications in a computational context. The concluding discussion assesses the progress thus far and outlines some research challenges and future directions, and solution to which is essential to achieve the goals of human hand manipulation skill transfer. It is expected that the survey will also provide profound insights into an in-depth understanding of real-time hand-centered algorithms, human perception-action, and potential hand-centered healthcare solutions.