Consider this: how intuitive is it for you to reach out and grab the nearest object to you? Perhaps you are reading this on a mobile device that you are holding in one hand while doing something else entirely with the other one.
Have you ever contemplated how many mundane tasks you perform on a daily basis that require two hands? What about tasks that require fine motor control, such as tying your shoelaces or handling something delicate, like an egg?
Our world is filled with life-changing technology and recent decades have yielded more astonishing advances than most of us could ever have imagined, but there is one area of critical importance to a huge number of people that is only now beginning to catch up.
Prosthetic devices have been around since the early 1800s, but the designs of such devices have tended to go through long periods with little or no significant innovation. During the latter half of the 20th century, many prosthetic devices underwent only incremental design improvements. Since the turn of the millennium however, there has been dramatic progress, especially in the design of upper-limb prostheses.
As a result of these advances, upper-limb prostheses are becoming more user friendly and, in the case of some cutting-edge devices, are now much closer to being comparable with the abilities of a biological arm. Unfortunately, the cost of such advanced devices places them beyond the reach of many users. Even for those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford one, practical issues can arise at the interface between the residual limb and the device.
Where signals recorded from the residual limb are used to control the prosthesis, the quality of signals that can be obtained (which varies greatly from user to user) is of paramount importance.