Attention enhancement for exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation using fingertip haptic stimulation

Li, Min and Chen, Jiazhou and He, Guoying and Cui, Lei and Chen, Chaoyang and Secco, Emanuele Lindo and Yao, Wei and Xie, Jun and Xu, Guanghua and Wurdemann, Helge (2021) Attention enhancement for exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation using fingertip haptic stimulation. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 8. ISSN 2296-9144 (

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Active enrollment in rehabilitation training yields better treatment outcomes. This paper introduces an exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation system. It is the first attempt to combine fingertip cutaneous haptic stimulation with exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation for training participation enhancement. For the first time, soft material 3D printing techniques are adopted to make soft pneumatic fingertip haptic feedback actuators to achieve cheaper and faster iterations of prototype designs with consistent quality. The fingertip haptic stimulation is synchronized with the motion of our hand exoskeleton. The contact force of the fingertips resulted from a virtual interaction with a glass of water was based on data collected from normal hand motions to grasp a glass of water. System characterization experiments were conducted and exoskeleton-assisted hand motion with and without the fingertip cutaneous haptic stimulation were compared in an experiment involving healthy human subjects. Users’ attention levels were monitored in the motion control process using a Brainlink EEG-recording device and software. The results of characterization experiments show that our created haptic actuators are lightweight (6.8 ± 0.23 g each with a PLA fixture and Velcro) and their performance is consistent and stable with small hysteresis. The user study experimental results show that participants had significantly higher attention levels with additional haptic stimulations compared to when only the exoskeleton was deployed; heavier stimulated grasping weight (a 300 g glass) was associated with significantly higher attention levels of the participants compared to when lighter stimulated grasping weight (a 150 g glass) was applied. We conclude that haptic stimulations increase the involvement level of human subjects during exoskeleton-assisted hand exercises. Potentially, the proposed exoskeleton-assisted hand rehabilitation with fingertip stimulation may better attract user’s attention during treatment.