New Nerve Interface Lets a User Feel 20 Spots on This Artificial Hand

Igor Spetic lost his right hand in a workplace accident. In the below embedded video, he wears a blindfold, earmuffs and a revolutionary new prosthetic hand. He can’t see or hear anything—only feel. But his new hand lets him do that. Watch him pluck the stems off cherries without crushing them.

He can do it because of the prosthetic hand invented by researchers at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University. Mr. Spetic can control the hand by clenching his forearm muscles, as is common in modern prosthetics. But now he can also feel what the hand is doing because 20 spots on it simulate human nerves. These send tactile feedback to implants inside his arm. David Talbot of Technology Review explains:

Then a total of 20 electrodes on the three cuffs deliver electrical signals to nerve fibers called axons from outside a protective sheath of living cells that surround those nerve fibers. This approach differs from other experimental technologies, which penetrate the sheath in order to directly touch the axons. These sheath-penetrating interfaces are thought to offer higher resolution, at least initially, but with a potentially higher risk of signal degradation or nerve damage over the long term. And so they have not been tested for longer than a few weeks.

(Video Link)

-via Glenn Reynolds

(Photo: Russell Lee/Case Western Reserve University)

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