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Perception of Springs With Visual and Proprioceptive Motion Cues: Implications for Prosthetics

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3 Author(s)
Netta Gurari ; Department of Robotics, Brain, and Cognitive Sciences, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy ; Katherine J. Kuchenbecker ; Allison M. Okamura

Manipulating objects with an upper limb prosthesis requires significantly more visual attention than doing the same task with an intact limb. Prior work and comments from individuals lacking proprioception indicate that conveying prosthesis motion through a nonvisual sensory channel would reduce and possibly remove the need to watch the prosthesis. To motivate the design of suitable sensory substitution devices, this study investigates the difference between seeing a virtual prosthetic limb move and feeling one's real limb move. Fifteen intact subjects controlled a virtual prosthetic finger in a one-degree-of-freedom rotational spring discrimination task. A custom haptic device was used to measure both real finger position and applied finger force, and the resulting prosthetic finger movement was displayed visually (on a computer screen) and/or proprioceptively (by allowing the subject's real finger to move). Spring discrimination performance was tested for three experimental sensory conditions-visual motion, proprioceptive motion, and visual and proprioceptive motion-using the method of constant stimuli, with a reference stiffness of 290 N/m. During each trial, subjects sequentially pressed the right index finger on a pair of hard-surfaced virtual springs and decided which was stiffer. No significant performance differences were found between the three experimental sensory conditions, but subjects perceived proprioceptive motion to be significantly more useful than visual motion. These results imply that relaying proprioceptive information through a nonvisual channel could reduce visual attention during prosthesis control while maintaining task performance, thus improving the upper limb prosthesis experience.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems  (Volume:43 ,  Issue: 1 )