Research in the Mimetic Interfaces Project Received a National Instruments Engineering Impact AwardThe research carried out in the Mimetic Interfaces project at Tampere University of Technology received an engineering award by National Instruments. The award was given for the development of prosthetic technology for unilateral facial paralysis to regain symmetrical facial expressions.
Researchers from Tampere University of Technology are developing technologies to regain facial functions of people with unilateral facial paralysis. The paralysis is a condition where the facial nerve on one side of the face is lacking in functionality while the other functions as normal. The paralysis is fairly common, and it affects daily activities such as blinking, eating, drinking, and social interaction. The developed technological solutions aim at reanimating the paralysed side of the face by activating its muscles with functional electrical stimulation based on simultaneous measurement of the healthy side. The reanimation is called facial pacing as it tries to reproduce the activity of the healthy side on the paralysed one to restore symmetrical facial expressions.
National Instruments (NI) is a company that provides products for test, measurement, and control. NI holds annual Engineering Impact Awards contests to showcase and acknowledge the most innovative engineering solutions that use their products. A facial pacing prototype device developed at the Tampere University of Technology uses NI products together with in-house electronics to achieve the required functionality. NI has published a short case study related to the application: ”Combating Unilateral Facial Paralysis With Low-Latency Muscle Reanimation”. The work that the case study describes was nominated for the 2016 Northern Europe NI Engineering Impact Awards in the biomedical category, and it received the award in a ceremony on 28 November 2016 in London.
The research on prosthetic technology for unilateral facial paralysis is a part of the multidisciplinary Mimetic Interfaces (MIMEFACE) project that is funded by the Academy of Finland. The project is one of the many projects where research groups from the universities at Tampere have joined forces to overcome issues that require collaboration beyond the limits of disciplines. Engineers from the Sensor Technology and Biomeasurements research group at Tampere University of Technology are responsible for the technology development. Human–technology interaction experts and psychologists from the Research Group for Emotions, Sociality, and Computing at University of Tampere are responsible for experimental testing of the developed technology with healthy participants. Medical doctors from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at University of Tampere and Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Medical Imaging Centre of the Pirkanmaa Hospital District are responsible for clinical trials with the technology. The research consortium is supported by collaboration with plastic surgeons from the Töölö hospital at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa. Additional support has been provided by a visiting researcher from Brno, Czech Republic.