Swiss Bionic Hand Offers True Sensations Through the Nervous System
Posted February 19, 2013 9:06 AM
Those wearing bionic hands
and similar prostheses often suffer a frustrating disconnect when they
can touch an object but can't feel it, even if they're using direct neural control.
The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and allies in Project TIME
have developed a hand that could clear that psychological hurdle. The
design implants electrodes directly in key nerves that not only allow
motor input, but deliver real sensory feedback from the artificial
appendage -- including needle pokes, much to the test subject's chagrin.
An early trial (seen above) kept the enhanced hand separate from the
wearer and was limited to two sensations at once, but an upcoming trial
will graft the hand on to a tester's arm for a month, with sensations
coming from across much of the simulated hand. EPFL hopes to have a
fully workable unit ready to test in two years' time, which likely can't
come soon enough for amputees wanting more authentic physical contact.