The device, which can be controlled using speech recognition software, helps users to grasp and lift everyday objects like a water bottle. Photo: Jay Van Rensselaer
With a plastic shell, two small motors and a speech recognition software, three American students have built a helping hand for an invalid to respond to voice commands. Inspired by a prop from the movie "Aliens", the student engineers designed the motorized plastic shell that fits the paralyzed right arm of the patient, the Johns Hopkins University reported in a press release. The man who suffers from a rare type of muscle wasting can now move his elbow with short voice commands such as "up", "down" and "stop". The engine on the hand also responds to "open", "close" and "stop". A small computer converts the voice commands into signals that control the motors. The helping hand moves very slowly so that the patient can stop it at any time.

Since the nerves of the arm are still intact, the patient can still control how his fingers close around an object. The progressive muscle decay, however, made it impossible for him to grab even small and light things properly or even lift. However, with the helping hand of Jonathan Hofeller, Christina Peace and Nathaniel Young, he has now regained a bit of freedom.

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