Amputee "feels" with bionic hand
Scientists and robotics experts from Italy, Switzerland, and Germany have created electronics and software that, for the first time, enabled a prosthetic device to give sensory feedback to the brain. And this allowed an amputee to experience a real-time touch sensation.
The team added sensors to an artificial hand which could detect and measure information about touch. Using computer algorithms, the scientists transformed the electrical signals they emitted into an impulse that sensory nerves could interpret.
During an operation in Rome, four electrodes were implanted onto nerves in the patient's upper arm. These were then connected to artificial sensors in the fingers of the prosthetic hand, which allowed touch and pressure feedback to be sent directly to the brain.
The patient, Dennis Aabo, 36, lost his hand in a fireworks accident. He spent a month doing laboratory tests, first to check that the electrodes were functioning, and then after they were fully connected to the bionic hand. When asked about his new hand, he said, “The biggest difference was when I grabbed something I could feel what I was doing without having to look. I could use the hand in the dark.”
The team is now working on how to miniaturize the technology and eliminate external cables so that the device could be used in the home. The scientists think it could be a decade before a sensory feedback bionic hand is commercially available.