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J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2012 Jun 15;9:40. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-9-40.

Real-time myoelectric control of a multi-fingered hand prosthesis using principal components analysis.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale e dell'Informazione, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Italy.



In spite of the advances made in the design of dexterous anthropomorphic hand prostheses, these sophisticated devices still lack adequate control interfaces which could allow amputees to operate them in an intuitive and close-to-natural way. In this study, an anthropomorphic five-fingered robotic hand, actuated by six motors, was used as a prosthetic hand emulator to assess the feasibility of a control approach based on Principal Components Analysis (PCA), specifically conceived to address this problem. Since it was demonstrated elsewhere that the first two principal components (PCs) can describe the whole hand configuration space sufficiently well, the controller here employed reverted the PCA algorithm and allowed to drive a multi-DoF hand by combining a two-differential channels EMG input with these two PCs. Hence, the novelty of this approach stood in the PCA application for solving the challenging problem of best mapping the EMG inputs into the degrees of freedom (DoFs) of the prosthesis.


A clinically viable two DoFs myoelectric controller, exploiting two differential channels, was developed and twelve able-bodied participants, divided in two groups, volunteered to control the hand in simple grasp trials, using forearm myoelectric signals. Task completion rates and times were measured. The first objective (assessed through one group of subjects) was to understand the effectiveness of the approach; i.e., whether it is possible to drive the hand in real-time, with reasonable performance, in different grasps, also taking advantage of the direct visual feedback of the moving hand. The second objective (assessed through a different group) was to investigate the intuitiveness, and therefore to assess statistical differences in the performance throughout three consecutive days.


Subjects performed several grasp, transport and release trials with differently shaped objects, by operating the hand with the myoelectric PCA-based controller. Experimental trials showed that the simultaneous use of the two differential channels paradigm was successful.


This work demonstrates that the proposed two-DoFs myoelectric controller based on PCA allows to drive in real-time a prosthetic hand emulator into different prehensile patterns with excellent performance. These results open up promising possibilities for the development of intuitive, effective myoelectric hand controllers.

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