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High-tech handrest could be big breakthrough for surgeons and artists

By Amanda Butterfield | Posted - Mar. 8, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Engineers at the University of Utah have invented a new motorized handrest that will let surgeons and artists precisely control scalpels, brushes and tools better than ever before.

The idea for the Active Handrest came about while assistant engineering professor William Provancher was watching a TV documentary of Leonardo Da Vinci. He thought Da Vinci could have used a better handrest to make an even better painting.

"You can do precision motions to about plus or minus 10 inches on two axes in a plane," Provancher says.

William Provancher, an assistant engineering professor at the University of Utah, worked with a team of students to develop the Active Handrest.
William Provancher, an assistant engineering professor at the University of Utah, worked with a team of students to develop the Active Handrest.

That may not mean a lot to you, but for a painter or surgeon, it's extraordinary.

"Say you are a surgeon, your hands are out, you're trying to do procedures that take hours." Provancher says. "Imagine holding out your hands in this position, or leaning forward in an uncomfortable position."

The purpose of the handrest is to decrease fatigue so a surgeon can hold his hands in an unnatural position longer and have more accuracy in his work.

"Anything that you need fine fingertip precision and control for, you could do with this," says Provancher.


A study of the device shows it allows better control of tools than other support devices, and with less fatigue. - University of Utah

The Active Handrest follows the movement of the hand, or it responds to pressure being applied in the desired direction. A person using the handrest puts their wrist on a support that can slide horizontally in any direction.

Their elbow rests on a support attached to the device.

Provancher and his students plan to fine-tune this invention to put on the market as soon as possible.

High-tech handrest could be big breakthrough for surgeons and artists

"There's companies and hospitals that are trying to claim a competitive advantage to having smaller incisions, more accurate procedures and this could actually be used for any of those," he says.

Provancher expects his device to sell for around $20,000. He says it's still in the early stages, so they may add to it to make it even more precise.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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