BreakThrough Study Idea

PossessedHand as an interface that can be used in various fields, including medical and welfare fieldsEmi Tamaki

<Series 2 / complete>

2019.04.18

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In the previous part, Ms. Emi Tamaki was interviewed mainly about the driving factor behind the development of PossessedHand and its background. Part 2 is about the mechanism of how the PossessedHand device works. The writer interviewed to find out how VR technology, including PossessedHand, can be applied in medical and welfare fields.


Mechanism of “PossessedHand”

This is prototype version 13 of the PossessedHand. The main unit consists of an enclosure with a built-in board and a belt with electrodes extending from it, and the device is operated by connecting a computer to the main body.

“PossessedHand” version 13, manufactured by Ms. Tamaki

Muscles move by electrical stimulation from the brain. Using this principle, an electrical stimulation similar to that generated from the brain is sent to a belt wrapped around the arm. The muscles move the fingers, misinterpreting the electrical stimulation from the belt as electrical stimulation from the brain. This is how the mechanism of the “PossessedHand” works.
The device is used by first wrapping the belt around the arm, then the arm and fingers are moved to make the electrode measure the electrical stimulus based on the muscle movement. For example, if the index finger is moved, the computer learns about the corresponding muscle under the skin which moves the index finger. After approximately five minutes of learning, the human hand can be moved freely with instructions from the computer screen to move the desired finger or for hand movements.

Moving fingers with PossessedHand

I knew that it was theoretically possible as I had studied anatomy. The knowledge of complex system engineering that I studied at the University was useful. Since I specialize in manufacturing products, I made use of electronics and design technology to create prototypes. I was able to move the fingers from version 1, and then I made many prototypes along with my company representative Mr. Iwasaki and announced the device, “PossesedHand” in 2011.

PossessedHand was released in 2011. In the same year, it was selected as the “World’s 50 Best Inventions” by the American “TIME” magazine. After the announcement as an unprecedented symbol of cutting-edge technology, the device was instantly at the center of attention.

Novelty and Popularity

PossessedHand gained attention even in conferences because of its rarity. I think there is an adequate market as it is a niche product. I think the difficulty in manufacturing was also decisive. Several others may have been thinking just like me. However, they might not have proceeded up to the development stage.
This product cannot be manufactured without a complete understanding of physiology, computer hardware, embedded electronics, and software AI. I cannot say that my knowledge covered all these aspects. However, I studied these in general and was able to apply the knowledge.

It will be interesting to know how PossessedHand will be used across the world in the future. At present, PossessedHand has been patented. However, the company H2L established by Ms. Tamaki has not monopolized the usage of PossessedHand, and it has been entrusted to various researchers and companies.

PossessedHand is Expected to be Used in Various Fields

Though my company (H2L) is conducting joint research in the medical field, I have not considered “Using PossessedHand for medical care and welfare”, irrespective of the fact that I thought about this technology while I was hospitalized. This is because I was developing it to share experiences by interacting and sharing information with the outside world. Recently, I finally realized that it could be used extensively in the medical care and welfare fields. By manufacturing a single interface, the possibilities can be expanded by using it effectively for various purposes and applications.

In addition to medical care and welfare, there are other areas where it can be used, such as entertainment including games, sightseeing, education, and remote work. It can also be used for sports training methods.
There is something called “Personal training” in which trainers study body movements. The trainer observes the muscle movements. Such as body movements and angles which are different, and essential muscles that have not developed. Since the computer can identify such points, there have been requests for its use in training. In the future, it may be possible to use PossessedHand for rehabilitation in the field of medical care and welfare.
Though it does not involve PossessedHand, my fellow researcher, Ms. Hiromi Nakamura, is working on such research. Ms. Nakamura is researching and developing an “Electric fork” that can reproduce salty taste. The study is on how to create a sense of taste with an electric current, using which the saltiness of food can be tasted artificially. With this, people who are required to eat less salt or people with high blood pressure can taste salt without the actual intake of salt. I think it is a beneficial device for people with diseases or for those who have restrictions on their salt intake.

Though Ms. Tamaki said, “I did not pay too much attention to its use in the fields of medical care and welfare”, it is expected that this research and development will significantly change the workplace environment and system of medical care and welfare. Different places and things can be experienced during hospitalization or while undergoing rehabilitation. If PossessedHand is utilized for medical care, welfare and other fields, more people will benefit from the improvement in the quality of life, and this will bring about innovative changes.

Interview Date: March 14, 2019

 

Series

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Emi Tamaki

Ms. Tamaki was born in 1984 in Okinawa Prefecture. She graduated in 2006 from Department of Information Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of the Ryukyus. She completed the master’s course in 2008 from the Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Tsukuba. Worked as a seeds search intern at the University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), in 2009. She was engaged in research at Disney Research, Pittsburgh 2010.
In 2011, announced “PossessedHand”, a device in which human hand movements are controlled by a computer, which attracted attention in several conferences. “PossessedHand” was reported by CNN and ABC of the United States and was selected as one of the 50 Best Inventions by the “TIME” magazine. In the same year, received a doctorate from the University of Tokyo. Awarded “University of Tokyo President’s Award” and served as a valedictorian at the same time.
She founded H2L Co., Ltd. in 2012 to provide research equipment to researchers and share it with consumers. Moved to Waseda University in 2013, and continued research activities. Announced the world's first tactile-type game controller “UnlimitedHand” through the Kickstarter Website in 2015, which achieved its target in 22 hours. Awarded the runner-up prize for the “Woman of the Year Award by Nikkei Woman”. In 2016, received “WIRED Audi Innovation Award 2016”, “Nikkei Business One hundred people creating the next generation”, and “National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) Researcher (Noteworthy work in science and technology) Award”. From the same year, she served as a member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation of the Cabinet Office and Expert Panel on Basic Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation, for the comprehensive strategy for the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan. Appointed as an ambassador of WINDS initiative (Women's Initiative in Developing STEM Career) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017. As of 2019, she is working as an associate professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University.

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