Indian-American siblings look to develop low-cost, brain-controlled interface for prosthetics

Indian-American siblings Vini and Eeshan Tripathii are developing a cost-effective, non-invasive and brain-controlled prosthetic with near-natural functionality.

Inspired by personal experience, Indian-American siblings Vini and Eeshan Tripathii are developing a cost-effective prosthetic interface that has more intuitive control, greater movement capability and comfort.

While Eeshan is an electrical engineering and computer science major at MIT, his sister Vini holds a degree in Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell Tech. Vini is also the recipient of Beck Fellowship for research in neuroengineering.

The inspiration to develop the interface came after their mother got sick and doctors had to amputate her hand to save her life. As their mother recovered and began using a prosthetic, Vini saw its limitations.

“The prosthetic was just so inadequate. It made it so difficult for her to do simple everyday tasks, and she is someone who is really active and independent,” a report in Cornell Tech quoted Vini as saying.

The siblings discovered while the prosthetic had strong mechanical dexterity, it was difficult to use, performed unreliably, and limited by a poor control interface.

Frustrated by how this exorbitantly expensive device could lack such basic functionality, the siblings set out to find a better solution. While Eeshan initially wanted to build his own prosthetic, the siblings quickly realised that the true problem wasn’t lack of prosthetics but that no one was focused on making them easier to control.

Instead of manufacturing new prosthetics, the Tripathii siblings began working to develop a low-cost, non-invasive, brain-controlled interface that could improve the functionality of existing prosthetics limbs.

Before long, they had designed a neuroprosthetic interface that couples electromyograph and electroencephalograph sensors with a proprietary algorithm to restore natural functionality to amputees.

“Simply put, we’re building a device that decodes your muscle and brain signals and translates them into commands that a prosthetic hand can use to make gestures and grasp objects. We aren’t building the prosthetic hand; we’re building the interface that controls the hand, and we’re doing it completely non-invasively,” the MIT report quoted Eeshan as saying.

The siblings decided that starting a company would help move their idea forward. So they turned to the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program for support and guidance, which connected them with mentors who helped the siblings shape their long-term research and development strategy and craft a polished pitch, the MIT report said.

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