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MyCQU - News Article

News Article

CQU wearable robotic glove concept a finalist in 2020 Bionics Queensland Challenge

Published:07 July 2020

Dr Vanesa Bochkezanian, CQU Lecturer in Neurological Physiotherapy with her patient Robynne Clifton.

A CQUniversity-led project to create a wearable robotic glove to help people with spinal injuries has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Bionics Queensland Challenge.

Supported by $100,000 from the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland program, the Bionics Queensland Challenge 2020 offers competitiors $165,000 to fast-track new medical devices, treatments and allied health services.

Initiated by Dr Vanesa Bochkezanian, CQU Lecturer in Neurological Physiotherapy, in partnership with the University of Queensland, the ‘Intuitive Grasp’ concept aims to improve mobility and grasp function by using electrodes and muscle stimulation.

Dr Bochkezanian said she was excited the Intuitive Grasp was a finalist has been entered in the Neural and artificial intelligence category of the competition.

"Round one of the 2020 Bionics Queensland Challenge on Saturday 4 July was a tough competition - we were competing against three other very innovative projects which used advanced technology and were run by highly experienced academics and researchers in the bioengineering field," she said.

"Our team was very pleased to find out that we were selected to be finalists of this competition. This is a great honour and we will be working very hard to make sure we have a good chance to win this challenge and make this Intuitive grasp bionic-wearable device for restoring hand function a reality and change people’s lives.

“This project has the potential to help lots of people,” Dr Bochkezanian said.

“It will give them independence and help them complete simple tasks like holding a cup or a knife and fork much easier.”

During round one Dr Bochkezanian pitched their discovery to a panel of experts, including neuroscientist and thought leader Dr Fiona Kerr, WearOptimo Chief Technology Officer Dr Stephen Wilson, founder of Neuromathix Dr Nigel Greenwood, Cochlear Ltd Chief Scientist Emeritus and Adjunct Professor Jim Patrick, Juxi Leitner, Cofounder of Lyro Robotics and Afghanistan war veteran amputee and champion golfer Damien Thomlinson, among others.

Although in its early development stages, Dr Bochkezanian said the Intuitive Grasp device would work by stimulating muscles using electrodes allowing patients to complete muscular contractions that are normally hindered by spinal injury.

Currently this project aims to bring the product to technology readiness level 4, to conduct pilot tests. Robynne Clifton has agreed to be part of this pilot testing and to provide her insights to the team to make sure it will meet the needs of people with physical disabilities.

Robynne, 71, who has lived with poliomyelitis since she was eight-months-old, uses a power wheelchair to mobilise herself and has some hand function, but she struggles with fine motor movements, such as grasping and holding small objects with her left hand.

She said she could see the Intuitive Grasps’ potential.

“I think it could help so many people like me – just to give them the confidence so they can have a normal life,” she said.

Bionics Queensland CEO Dr Robyn Stokes said the Challenge showcased Queensland-led discoveries in bionic mobility such as neural and myoelectric controlled bionic limbs, exoskeletons and allied health services plus technologies that helped restore spinal sensation, improve hearing, spatial orientation, and emotional disorders.

“We are delighted with the calibre of entries for this year’s Challenge – we have a group of incredibly bright-minded Queensland professionals and students who are instrumental in accelerating medical technologies to help the lives of millions,” Dr Stokes said.

The Challenge has three categories with winners set to be announced on August 1 during a virtual Grand Challenge Pitch Event. Three $50,000 prizes will go to major winners in each category and three $5,000 Early Stage Bionics Innovation Awards will also be presented.

For more on Bionics Queensland Challenge 2020 and key dates visit www.bionicsqueensland.com.au/challenge