South Africa: Wits Researchers Interpret Brainwaves to Give Amputees a Hand

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Top marks are due for a bionic hand engineered by Wits University postgraduates, who have made mobility more accessible to the 1 million amputees in South Africa. Their 3D-printed hand is not only light in weight, but light on the pocket, as it drops the cost of this prosthetic from around US$100 000 to US$78.

ENGINEERING PIVOTAL MOVES

Biomedical engineers at Wits have researched how brainwaves can be used to control a robotic prosthetic hand. The impact is far reaching as such a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) will enable amputees and people with motor impairments to regain some hand mobility.

"In South Africa, stroke victims may benefit significantly from this technology," says Abdul-Khaallq Mohamed, Lecturer and PhD candidate in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Wits. "Stroke afflicts an estimated 132 000 South Africans per year."

Currently, a prosthetic hand costs around US$ 100 000, an investment out of reach for most South Africans. This research will use 3D-printing to create a prosthetic hand for US$ 78, thereby increasing access to such healthcare for many.

Mohamed coordinates a research group of six students studying different aspects of potentially controlling a robotic hand. Most BCI experiments to date have...

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