A startup called Nuada has developed a soft, robotic glove that gives people with hand pain or weakness a strong grip.
According to co-founders Filipe Quinaz and Vitor Crespo, the glove contains a "mesh" of artificial tendons and sensors. These are controlled by an electromechanical system contained in a smartwatch-like device worn on the same hand.
A user activates the glove by lightly flexing their wrist. The glove then understands that they want an assist, and can help them with any movement. Typically, users will employ the glove to pick up, maneuver or hold a heavy object whether that's a bag of groceries or a car battery.
A more advanced (and expensive) version of the Nuada glove can predict the wearer's movement and assist them automatically. The advanced version also work with a mobile app that gathers data about their hand's activity. A physical therapist, for example, could review the data and help the wearer to become more ergonomically healthy.
Nuada began with the idea of creating a medical-grade prosthetic, Quinaz told CNBC. But the company decided to develop more of a generally helpful tool after hearing tremendous demand from employers whose staff do a lot of manual labor, and seniors with weakness in their hands.
Hand injuries befell more than 140,000 workers in the U.S. alone in 2015, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Labor. And repetitive, physical tasks at work—whether you're a camera operator, EMT or waiter – can cause fatigue and pain even in healthy workers. Meanwhile, arthritis of the hand effects tens of millions in the U.S. alone.
Based in Braga, Portugal, the company is currently testing its robo-gloves with large employers there, including a Volkswagen factory and the retail conglomerate Sonae. The company has raised seed funding from the hardware accelerator HAX and its affiliated venture firm SOSV.