Researchers and Georgia Tech have been using vibration motors mounted in gloves for two major applications. The Mobile Music Touch, or MMT, contains small vibration motors for each finger and a separate unit for power, processing, and communication with a PC (it can also work with an MP3 player or smartphone). The study looked at aiding the motor skills of spinal cord injury sufferers who experienced a level of paralysis.
The computer, or another compatible device, is loaded with a song and then links with the MMT. Then as the song notes are played, the MMT activates the vibration motor on the finger that should be used to play the note on a piano. Half of the study’s participants used the MMT and half did not. This active learning has been tested before with results showing that the vibrations can improve the user’s ability to learn a song.
Interestingly, the second application involved users wearing the MMT when they weren’t playing the piano. Instead, they wore the glove in two-hour sessions throughout the week, where the MMT continued to vibrate the piano key presses but the subject would carry on with their normal daily routine.
MMT users demonstrated a higher level of learning than those who learnt to play the piano songs without the device, confirming previous studies. Although the key discovery was that the users of the MMT device experienced a significant improvement in grasping and sensation tests compared to the half of participants who simply learnt to play the piano.
The team hypothesises that the vibrations in the glove trigger nerves in the wearer’s hand, stimulating their brain’s motor functions. Should this turn out to be the case, it’s certainly another application for vibration motors that could have a fantastic impact on users’ quality of life. We’ve previously suggested how to mount vibration motors into flexible material, such as gloves, in Application Bulletin 010.