Bionic hands have been invented in the past and have been around for many years but a recent breakthrough has enabled scientists to add the sense of touch to a portable bionic hand.The breakthrough has been a result of years of research by teams in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.
The portable bionic hand uses a series of tiny electrodes and sensors that can replicate the sense of touch. The hand is connected to a computer that can translate the information coming from the artificial fingers into signals that the brain can understand and these are then transferred to the body through electrodes.
Almerina Mascarello lost her arm over twenty years ago and was chosen to test the prototype for six months. She told BBC that the portable bionic hand didn’t make her feel like a robot but it felt like a part of her and she once again had the pleasure of accomplishing simple tasks. “All mundane things, really, but important. You feel complete,”
Paolo Rossini, a neurologist at University Hospital Agostino Gemelli in Rome, sees the technology’s potential beyond the day-to-day. He told BBC that “once you can control a robotic prosthesis with your brain you can think about creating one that allows more complex movements than a hand with five fingers.”
This technology has been in existence since 2014, but the supporting equipment was so large that it could not leave the lab. Dennis Aobo Sorensen lost his hand in a firecracker explosion in 2004 and said, “being able to feel different textures, understanding whether objects were hard or soft and how I was holding them was just incredible.”
The studies showed that Dennis was able to successfully distinguish between a hard, soft or medium object with a 78% accuracy and was successful 88% of the time is describing the size and shape of specific objects. Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at EPFL in Lausanne told BBC’s Fergus Walsh: “We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies like Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in Star Wars – a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorized prosthesis, identical to the human hand.”
Almerina could not keep the hand after the trial was over but she hopes that the trials complete soon and the portable bionic hand is commercialized so she gets to keep one permanently.