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Smart gloves could allow stroke patients to relearn the piano | Science & Tech News

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Scientists have developed a pair of smart gloves that could allow patients who have limb weakness to relearn to play the piano.

Those who have had a stroke may often show a reduced ability or be completely unable to move their hands, fingers, or wrists, making it difficult to carry out manual movements.

The exoskeleton glove uses artificial intelligence, touch sensors and moving components called actuators to help mimic natural hand movements so patients can relearn manual tasks.

Researchers say that the proof-of-concept gloves “teaches” their wearer to feel the difference between right and wrong movements.

When a person wears the gloves to play the piano, it is able to detect where the wearer went wrong in their movements, enabling them to “understand their performance and make improvements”.

“We found that the glove can learn to distinguish between correct and incorrect piano play,” said Dr Erik Engeberg, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s department of ocean and mechanical engineering.

“This means it could be a valuable tool for personalised rehabilitation of people who wish to relearn to play music.”

In the UK today, it is estimated that there are 1.2 million stroke survivors.

Stroke is a leading cause of disability, with almost two thirds of survivors leaving the hospital with limb weakness, visual problems, and language and communication problems.

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As part of the experiments, the gloves were taught to play the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb” on the piano using pre-programmed movements.

The researchers said further work needs to be done to improve the gloves’ accuracy and make them more adaptable, but in the future they hope that stroke patients and people with disabilities could use these gloves to regain arm function.

Commenting on the work, Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “It’s an exciting time for technology in stroke research.

“The economic burden on health and social care in this country demands innovative approaches to treatment and care, which have the potential to reduce the devastating effects of stroke.”

Ms Bouverie added: “We hope the results of this research will help build on our current understanding to bring about effective treatments to help rebuild lives after stroke.”

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