“Imagine being in an accident that leaves you unable to feel any sensation in your arms and fingers. Now imagine regaining that sensation, a decade later, through a mind-controlled robotic arm that is directly connected to your brain.”
That was written in Science Daily regarding a recent breakthrough in neurotechnology: the artificial hand.
But not just any artificial hand, one that allows an amputee to tell the difference between soft or firm touch. The implanted electrodes let the amputee feel the same intensity of pressure in the artificial hand as they do in the other. It is one step closer to developing prosthetics than can feel.
In order to test out the device, Keith Vonderhuevel held his 2-year-old granddaughter without taking the artificial hand off, as he normally would in fear of squeezing too tightly. Vonderhuevel had lost his right arm below the elbow 11 years ago in a job accident and this was the first time he was able to use both hands – almost equally. “It feels like a light pressure. The harder I squeeze, the stronger that pressure gets,” he said to a member of the Associated Press.
Scientists at Case Western Reserve University say that enhancing prosthetics with a sense of touch will still take a lot of research but their plan for now is to allow Vonderhuevel and another volunteer to use the experimental hand at home instead of just the laboratory. They want to see if it can make a difference in one’s everyday life. Case Western biomedical engineer Dustin Tyler, leader of the project, said that the goal is to get people to use it as any other limb.