Click to Print

This Bionic Hand Allows Amputee to 'Feel' Again

February 6, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231311

One thing's for sure: no "bionic man" has ever been able to do this before.

In 2004, Dennis Aabo Sørensen lost his left hand after a firework exploded during a New Year's Eve celebration.

Little did he know that, in order to 'feel' again, all he had to do was wait for prosthetic technology to advance to the stage where electrodes could be surgically implanted in his nerves and connected to a bionic hand.

Nine years later, that day has arrived.

With the help of a high profile team of international robotic experts, Sørensen received said bionic hand, which allowed him to tell the shape and stiffness of objects while blindfolded.

Scientists have been working on the project of touch sensitive prosthetics for years now, but this is said to be the first time that an amputee has experienced real-time touch sensations through a bionic hand. Silvestro Micera -- a researcher who has worked on the project for the past 15 years -- and his team added sensors to the artificial hand, which could detect and measure information about touch, the BBC reported. Using computer algorithms, the researchers converted the electrical signals they emitted into an impulse that sensory nerves could read.

Sørensen, for his part, was in complete awe: "Suddenly you could see my left hand was talking to my brain again and it was magic," he told USA Today, when asked to describe the first moment he could 'feel' again after nine years. "It was surreal. I grabbed the object in my hand and knew it was round. It was a baseball."


Unfortunately, due to safety restrictions (the bionic hand is still a prototype) the sensors were removed from Sørensen's hand after the experiment was completed. But the project's success points to amazing capabilities for prosthetics devices of the future: one day, scientists predict, bionic hands will not only be able to feel, but also detect texture and temperature.

Imagine the ability to feel a previously missing hand closing around an object. And sensory capable bionic arms could also allow amputees to grab things in the dark, as well as perform more nuanced tasks like cracking an egg.

While it could be up to 10 years before sensory-enabled bionic hands like Sørensen's are commercially available, the bionic future looks bright: "These results show the possibilities for amputees," Micera told USA Today, before predicting that the same technology could also be used for prosthetic legs.

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.