He raraunga inamata, he toronga ānamata, he huanga āke tonu atu: A multifaceted approach to improving quality of life for upper limb amputees

This thesis investigates innovative approaches to enhance the quality of life for upper limb amputees, integrating advanced prosthetic design, neurocontrol systems, and Māori knowledge systems. With the prevalence of prosthetic rejection and limitations in current designs affecting amputees' daily functionality and psychological well-being, a multifaceted strategy is essential. This research aims to address these challenges by improving prosthetic functionality, user control mechanisms, and incorporating cultural perspectives into prosthetic development. The study first focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of four low-cost prosthetic hands. Assessing their Degrees of Freedom (DoF), Range of Motion (RoM), and Kapandji scores. The research proposes a novel hybrid coupled-tendon system. This system aims to combine the adaptability of underactuated designs with the precision control of coupled mechanisms, enhancing the prosthetic hands' functionality and grasp versatility. In exploring control mechanisms, an EEG-based control system was developed to improve the intuitiveness of prosthetic control. Through comparative analysis of motor execution and action observation training regimes, facilitated by a digital twin, the study evaluates the efficacy of these methods in enhancing users' control over the prosthetics. The research identifies limitations in the classification of multiple active grasps and suggests potential improvements through augmented and virtual reality training environments. This thesis incorporates Māori perspectives by examining how mātauranga Māori can inform and enrich prosthetic design and usage. Through the analysis of pūrākau Māori, this work highlights the importance of considering the mauri, whakapapa of materials in prosthetic manufacturing and the implications of tapu on control systems. This inclusion aims to create culturally resonant devices that acknowledge and integrate the spiritual and cultural dimensions of the user's identity, offering a holistic approach to prosthetic development. This interdisciplinary research contributes to the field by proposing a comprehensive framework that not only advances prosthetic technology but also aligns with cultural values and practices. By addressing the technical, psychological, and cultural needs of upper limb amputees, the project underscores the potential of combining engineering innovation with cultural wisdom to significantly improve amputees' autonomy and well-being. The findings advocate for a more inclusive and holistic approach to prosthetic development, emphasizing the importance of user-centric design and cultural competency in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with limb loss.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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