RFID Prostheses Lets Amputees Take Control of Their Environment

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Infinite Biomedical Technologies, a Baltimore-based medical device maker from Johns Hopkins University, is aiming at finding innovative breakthroughs to improve prostheses. The company has developed MORPH (Myoelectrically Operated RFID Prosthetic Hand), which uses RFID technology to help amputees to finish their daily routines.

Several amputees was chosen to test the prosthetic device and provide feedback to the researchers at Infinite Biomedical Technologies.

“The day I got the prototype, it was a joyous occasion,” said McHugh, one of the participant. “It changed my future. It’s a wonderful feeling to reach for something and have my hand go in the right position. This saves me time and gives me confidence. It replaces disability with ability.”

Before this test, McHugh tried two types of prostheses: One was cable-operated, and the other was myoelectric, which means it used a sensor to convert muscle movements to electrical signals to open and close the hand and vary grips. Both had limitations in terms of reliability and ease of use.

That changed last year when McHugh was fitted with a myoelectric prosthesis equipped with a built-in RFID reader. He keeps several RFID tags in his shirt pocket, on his belt and in other convenient locations, and each is programmed to affect a specific position, such as a pinching grip. To get his prosthetic hand to move the way he wants, he simply passes it over the appropriate tag. He is now able to control his right hand, making it easier to put a gallon of milk in the refrigerator and carry out other routine tasks.

“The power of RFID is that it allows the patient to take control of their environment to whatever degree they want,” says Ananth Natarajan, co-founder and board member of the privately held firm.