LAUSANNE A prosthetic hand with touch-sensitive fingers has allowed Dennis Aabo Sørensen to feel objects in his grasp for the first time since he lost his left hand in an accident almost 10 years ago, EPFL scientists said. The 36-year-old Danish man was fitted with the “bionic hand” during a month-long trial last year, and was able to distinguish between different objects that he held in his grip while blindfolded.
It is the first prosthetic hand that has been able to send sensory information to the wearer’s brain via electrodes implanted beneath the skin. Its invention, by researchers at EPFL and Italy’s Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, could lead to a new generation of bionic limbs that can provide real-time, tactile information about the surrounding environment. “The idea is that the next implant will be ready within two years and we aim to put the electrodes into the arm for the long term, perhaps months or years, and for everything to be completely portable,” EPFL Professor Silvestro Micera said.
The hand works by sending information about the strength and shape of the grip around an object to a computer chip, which re-packages the data into a format that is more readily understood by the body’s peripheral nervous system. “The sensory feedback was incredible,” Sørensen said. “When I held an object, I could feel if it was soft or hard, round or square.”