This Bionic Finger Restores Amputees' Sense of Touch

By Gary Cutlack on at

A prototype bionic fingertip that allows the wearer to feel texture has been demonstrated by researchers, giving hope to the victims of amputation that robots may one day be of some actual use and not just the willing sexual playthings of the super-rich.

The paper from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne says that: "An amputee was able to feel smoothness and roughness in real-time with an artificial fingertip that was surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm. Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals."

And they got a man with some missing bits to actually try it out. Dennis Aabo Sørensen, who's missing an entire hand, had the fingertip attached to nerves at the end of his arm, and... stuff happened. "The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand," said Sørensen, adding "I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand."

The team says this makes Sørensen the first man to feel difference in texture through an implanted device, an important step forwards in making life-changing prosthetics. [EPFL [PDF] via Engadget]

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