École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Enhanced Humans

Bionic Fingertip Allows Amputees To Feel Again

Thanks to brain-machine interfaces, this device allows amputees to accurately feel texture 96% of the time.

Artificial Fingertip

Check out this bionic fingertip that can let amputees feel rough and smooth textures in real time.

The device was jointly developed by scientists from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy and was trialled on the arm of amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen.

The nerves of Sørensen’s upper arm was connected to the artificial fingertip, where a machine was used to control the device’s movement. As it moved across the plastic, sensors work to generate an electric signal that is then translated to a series of electrical spikes. These signals mimic the nervous system and is promptly sent to Sørensen’s nerves, allowing him to feel in real time.

Real Feel

This is the latest in a series of global efforts from various scientific and medical communities seeking to significantly improve the functionality of artificial limbs through the use of brain-machine interfaces.

The bionic fingertip allows Sørensen to feel and distinguish rough and smooth surfaces with much accuracy. In the study, it was reported that he was able to distinguish 96 percent of the simulations correctly, noting that it was what he would feel if he had his real hand.

In a larger study involving non-amputees, “The tactile information was delivered through fine needles that were temporarily attached to the arm’s median nerve through the skin,” the researchers shared in a press release. “The non-amputees were able to distinguish roughness in textures 77 percent of the time.”

“The research demonstrates that the needles relay the information about texture in much the same way as the implanted electrodes, giving scientists new protocols to accelerate for improving touch resolution in prosthetics.”

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