BioLiberty’s AI technology helps millions get a grip
BioLiberty co-founder Rowan Armstrong tests the glove
A robotic glove based on AI technology could soon be helping millions of people recover muscle grip in their hands after securing support from the Edinburgh Business School’s incubator at Heriot-Watt University.
The glove is aimed at the 2.5 million people living in the UK who suffer from hand weakness because of muscle mass loss as they age or due to illnesses such as Multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The glove detects a user’s intention to grip and then employs an algorithm to convert the intention into force, helping the user to hold an item or apply the necessary pressure to complete an activity.
The technology is expected to help with a wide range of day-to-day tasks including opening jars, driving and pouring a cup of tea. The lightweight glove is the first product from BioLiberty, a Scottish start-up founded by four recent engineering graduates.
Co-founder Ross O’Hanlon, 24, was motivated to start the company when his aunt was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and began to lose movement. Finding little support for individuals unable to grip with their hands, he noticed simple tasks like changing the TV channel or drinking water were becoming difficult for her.
“Being an engineer, I decided to use technology to tackle these challenges head on with the aim of helping people like my aunt to retain their autonomy,” he said.
“As well as those affected by illness, the population continues to age and this places increasing pressure on care services. We wanted to support independent living and healthy ageing by enabling individuals to live more comfortably in their own homes for longer.
“While there are many gadgets on the market that address a specific grip challenge such as tools to help open jars, I wanted an all-encompassing solution to support a range of daily tasks.
“Up to now, we’ve funded the company from business competition awards so being accepted into the Edinburgh Business School Incubator programme is a huge boost. We’re confident that support of this type will help accelerate the glove into homes more quickly.”
Kallum Russell, business incubator manager at the Edinburgh Business School, said: “Heriot-Watt University is renowned for its robotics and AI expertise with a strong focus on the development of assisted living technology within the National Robotarium.
“As the impact of the pandemic further erodes the economy, access to support services for business owners has been curtailed. As a result, incubators like ours are even more valuable in supporting the development of innovative new products and services which will help drive economic recovery and growth.”
Once companies leave the Incubator, the University’s Global Research Innovation and Discovery facility supports next stage business growth through accelerated scale-up and development processes.