Coming Soon: A Prosthetic Hand With A Sense Of ‘Touch’!

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Thursday, February 06, 2014: Scientists have undoubtedly made big breakthroughs in recent years in improving the dexterity of prosthetics, however, allowing the sense of touch remains a challenge, more like a ‘holy grail’ in prosthetics, only until now! European researchers have successfully created a robotic hand that lets an amputee ‘feel’ by providing a sense of touch.

The prototype is of course far from being perfect, but at the moment it is clearly the closest to ‘feeling’ like a normal hand. Under the research, doctors at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital implanted tiny electrodes inside the ulnar and median nerves in the stump of the subject’s arm. When subjected to a weak electrical signal, it was found that the nerves still could relay information. Meanwhile, doctors at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne put sensors on two fingers of a robotic hand, to detect information about what the artificial fingers touched. The experiment continued for a week, wherein the researchers basically created a loop that let the robotic hand rapidly communicate with the subject’s brain. Further, the subject wore a blindfold and headphones just to be sure he actually used touch, and didn’t cheat by looking or hearing.

It will take several years of additional research to create a first-generation artificial hand that can feel, and looks more like a traditional prosthetic, however, results indicate the say might not be far!

At some point in time wouldn’t they need to implant a chip in the brain to attain a better prosthetic?

Saurabh Singh, EFYTIMES News Network

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