Robot Hand Will Feel What It Touches

The first bionic hand that will allow a person to actually feel what it touches will be surgically attached to a man in Rome, Italy later in 2013.

Having lost his arm in an accident, the man will receive a bionic hand replacement that will be directly connected to his nervous system via electrodes.

"It will be the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback for grasping," Dr. Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland told The Independent on Sunday, Feb. 17.

If all goes according to plan in this experimental procedure, the patient will be able to control his hand with his thoughts. His brain will, in turn, receive sensory signals from sensors in the bionic hand.

Unnamed and in his 20s, the recipient will experience "a fast, bidirectional flow of information between the man's nervous system and the prosthetic hand," once fitted with the pioneering prosthetic, according to The Independent.

Dr. Micera told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston that "full acceptance of the limb" will come via "the more sensory feeling an amputee has."

The bionic hand the Roman will receive is a follow-up to an earlier iteration bestowed upon Pierpaolo Petruzziello in 2009. After losing half his arm in a car accident, Petruzziello received a temporary bionic hand whose fingers could be moved, clenched into a fist and used to hold objects.

Petruzziello also reported he could feel the sensation of needles pricking his hand when placed in his new hand.

This earlier version of the hand, however, only utilized two sensory zones, whereas the latest model will employ sensory zones from all fingertips, the palm and the wrists, in order to create a truer, "near real-life" feeling in the limb.

"We have refined the interface [connecting the hand to the patient], so we hope to see much more detailed movement and control of the hand," said Dr. Micera.

"We could be on the cusp of providing new and more effective clinical solutions to amputees in the next year."

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