Passive Haptic Rehabilitation: Improve Sensation and Dexterity after Traumatic Injury Using Wearables

Thad Starner
Caitlyn Seim

Our Passive Haptic Learning gloves teach the "muscle memory" of how to play piano melodies without the learner's active attention. These gloves can also help wearers recover sensation in their hands after a traumatic event, such as a partial spinal cord injury. The PHL gloves are fingerless gloves equipped with vibrators at each knuckle. As a mobile MP3 player plays each note ofa song, the gloves tap the finger that corresponds to the respective piano key. In our testing, users can learn the first 45 notes of simplesongs like "Amazing Grace" in 30 minutes while concentrating on reading comprehension exams. Similar gloves can passively teach a wearer how to type and read Braille in four hours without active attention. We have extended the work to Passive Haptic Rehabilitation: helping people with tetraplegia due to partial spinal cord injury improve sensation and dexterity in their affected hands. In future we hope to extend the gloves to helping with other conditions such as stroke, MS, ALS, and Parkinsons.

Thad Starner

The Contextual Computing Group (CCG) creates wearable and ubiquitous computing technologies using techniques from artificial intelligence (AI) and human-computer interaction (HCI). We focus on giving users superpowers through augmenting their senses, improving learning, and providing intelligent assistants in everyday life. Members' long-term projects have included creating wearable computers (Google Glass), teaching manual skills without attention (Passive Haptic Learning), improving hand sensation after traumatic injury (Passive Haptic Rehabilitation), educational technology for the Deaf community, and communicating with dogs and dolphins through computer interfaces (Animal Computer Interaction).