New high-tech handrest for doctors, artists causes less fatigue

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Washington, March 9 (ANI): Engineers at the University of Utah have come up with a new computer-controlled, motorized handrest that will help doctors, artists and others control scalpels, brushes and tools more accurately over a wider area with less fatigue.

William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering said: "We've invented a new device - the Active Handrest - that's useful for aiding people in performing precision tasks with their hands such as surgery, painting, electronics repair or other tasks that require precise control of the fingertips."

Waiting for a patent on the device, Provancher may float a company to launch it into the market. He is even thinking of licensing it to companies that manufacture touch-feedback devices, robotic surgery equipment or produce art or refurbish electronics.

A person using the handrest places their wrist on a support that can slide horizontally in any direction. Their elbow rests on a support attached to the device.

The Active Handrest allows a person to keep their hand steady while it senses the position of a hand-grasped tool or the force exerted by the hand or both. Thereafter, the device's computer software moves the handrest so it "constantly re-centers your fingertips in the center of their dexterous workspace," which Provancher explains is "the range over which you can move your fingers and be very precise."

For instance, if a person places their arm on a desk to write, their hand is capable of moving the pen about 4 inches in any direction, but precise writing is practical only within a 1-inch wide "dexterous workspace," he points out.

The existing prototype of the Active Handrest lets a user move their hand precisely within a workspace of about 10 by 10 inches, re-centering the hand as the arm moves to reach a larger area.

Using the Active Handrest also means "less fatigue, and if you have fatigue, you are going to have tremor associated with that," meaning less precision.

The ideas for the Active Handrest struck Provancher while watching a television show about Leonardo da Vinci. The actor playing da Vinci was painting while using a simple handrest - a stick with a cloth ball on each end - that spanned the canvas. This made Provancher think about developing a handrest that moves to allow painting over a large workspace.

Provancher carried out the research with University of Utah mechanical engineering doctoral students Mark Fehlberg and Brian Gleeson, and Levi Leishman, a summer undergraduate researcher. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

Provancher will talk about the development and testing of the Active Handrest on March 25, during the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Haptics Symposium in Waltham, Mass. (ANI)

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