A man who had his lower arm amputated has, for the first time, been able to not only feel touch but actually sense different textures thanks to the use of an incredible new bionic finger.
New Scientist reports that researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have developed a special fingertip which uses electromechanical sensors that change shape when touched.
By logging the electrical signals sent when a person runs their finger over different textures the researchers were then able to recreate these exact signals and match them to the bionic finger.
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The readings are then fed into a computer, processed and interpreted into electrical signals which are then fired through the nerves in the upper arm.
Dennis Sørensen said: “I could tell the difference between rough and smooth – it was amazing,”
Sørensen lost his hand and lower arm in a firework accident but thanks to this new procedure was able to feel what would have been the index finger on his arm running across the surfaces.
The researchers were able to connect the bionic limb to his upper arm using surgically implanted electrodes. Incredibly he was then able to tell the difference between rough and smooth 96 per cent of the time.
Sørensen was also one of the first to be fitted with an experimental hand which could 'feel' touch.
They were also able to test the bionic finger on non-amputees as well by using a single electrode that's implanted into the upper arm, much like a needle.
What they found was that even the non-amputees were able to detect the difference 77 per cent of the time.
The hope is that in the future the limb can be incorporated into future bionic limbs enabling amputees not only a level of dexterity but also a level of physical awareness that has never been seen before.
By combining this technology with the ability to sense pressure researchers are getting one step closer to creating more realistic bionic limbs.
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