Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No, this is not an April Fool's joke: Presenting the Active Handrest

William Provancher and other University of Utah engineers have invented a computer-controlled, motorized hand and arm support. This new device, dubbed the Active Handrest, allows precise and tireless precision of hand movement. The software within the device senses both hand position and force, constantly adjusting to keep the fingers in the optimal work area.

Photo credit: University of Utah.

A prototype of the Active Handrest is shown here with a person using it to manipulate a stylus for writing or drawing.

Volunteers compared the new device with a fixed hand support (just something to rest their hands on while working), a fixed elbow support, and no support. In each case, the subjects were asked to trace circles or arcs of varying sizes. For the smallest circles, there was little difference between the groups. However, once the circles got bigger, the Active Handrest was able to keep the test subjects fingers centered on the task, resulting in a 26 to 36% reduction in drawing error, compared with the other support options.

Provancher hopes his device, which he is patenting, will help surgeons, artists, or anyone whose work entails extensive periods of fine, precise hand control. Personally, I was amused by the thought of people carrying the device around to use with their laptops. OK, I’m the bad guy.