A new brain-controlled exoskeleton that helps people with paralysis move their hands has been successfully trialled by scientists in Germany.

The device, known as a brain machine interface (BMI), combines an exoskeleton ‘glove’ and an electrode head cap. In the trial, six participants with paralysis wearing the brain-driven technology were able to grasp objects, sign documents and drink from a cup with improved control and strength as a result of brain signals being transmitted via the head cap to the exoskeleton glove.

The technology also factors in eye movement, with participants needing to move their eyes to tell the glove to release the object, in order to limit the risk of the machine misinterpreting brain signals and dropping an item by mistake. It is also significantly safer in comparison to older interfaces, which have previously required electrodes to be surgically implanted into the person’s head – a process that carries many risks such as bleeding or infection.

It is hoped that the technology could provide support for those with paralysis so that they can better manage their condition and regain their independence. According to the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA), there are 40,000 spinal injury survivors currently living in the UK.

Samantha Hemsley, national head of the serious injury team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This technology is an exciting prospect and one of many new developments happening in the exoskeleton field of research. Individuals who have a spinal injury often require support to help them perform simple tasks, so it will be a real positive if technological advancements can help them regain their independence and do such tasks without assistance.

“Nonetheless, this trial is in its infancy and the technology will need to be fully vetted before it can be used as part of rehabilitation. It’s important to keep an eye on new developments in this area, but until the technology has been medically approved, our focus will remain on ensuring our spinal injury clients receive the best support and care possible using the available methods.”