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The Role of the Thumb: Study of Finger Motion in Grasping and Reachability Space in Human and Robotic Hands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number7447805
Pages (from-to)1061-1070
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Cybernetics
Issue number7
Accepted/In pressFeb 2016


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    Uploaded date:31 Mar 2016

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

King's Authors


It is well acknowledged that the opposing thumb
granted humans advanced manipulation capabilities. However,
such feature is not statistically quantified and its representation
is not formally addressed in robotics yet. This paper studies
whether the displacement of the opposing thumb in humans
is a determining factor for shaping the grip. Using statistical
analysis of the variability of motion capture data from the
GRASP database, we found that the displacement of the thumb
plays a leading role on the shaping of the grip, independently
from the specific object being grasped. Furthermore, we map and
compare the reachability spaces of the human thumb and two
state-of-the-art robotic thumbs - the Shadow and the iCub hands.
We conclude that the kinematics of robotic thumbs does not
evenly span the reachability space of the human thumb, favouring
precision grasping motions. Hence our findings contributes to the
discussion of the optimal modelling of robotic hands.

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