Learning to operate a high-dimensional hand via a low-dimensional controller

Alexandra A. Portnova-Fahreeva*, Fabio Rizzoglio, Maura Casadio, Ferdinando A. Mussa-Ivaldi, Eric Rombokas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Dimensionality reduction techniques have proven useful in simplifying complex hand kinematics. They may allow for a low-dimensional kinematic or myoelectric interface to be used to control a high-dimensional hand. Controlling a high-dimensional hand, however, is difficult to learn since the relationship between the low-dimensional controls and the high-dimensional system can be hard to perceive. In this manuscript, we explore how training practices that make this relationship more explicit can aid learning. We outline three studies that explore different factors which affect learning of an autoencoder-based controller, in which a user is able to operate a high-dimensional virtual hand via a low-dimensional control space. We compare computer mouse and myoelectric control as one factor contributing to learning difficulty. We also compare training paradigms in which the dimensionality of the training task matched or did not match the true dimensionality of the low-dimensional controller (both 2D). The training paradigms were a) a full-dimensional task, in which the user was unaware of the underlying controller dimensionality, b) an implicit 2D training, which allowed the user to practice on a simple 2D reaching task before attempting the full-dimensional one, without establishing an explicit connection between the two, and c) an explicit 2D training, during which the user was able to observe the relationship between their 2D movements and the higher-dimensional hand. We found that operating a myoelectric interface did not pose a big challenge to learning the low-dimensional controller and was not the main reason for the poor performance. Implicit 2D training was found to be as good, but not better, as training directly on the high-dimensional hand. What truly aided the user’s ability to learn the controller was the 2D training that established an explicit connection between the low-dimensional control space and the high-dimensional hand movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1139405
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
StatePublished - 2023


  • EMG
  • autoencoders
  • dimensionality reduction
  • hand
  • kinematics
  • learning
  • myoelectric
  • prosthetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Histology


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