Bionic hand has allowed an amputee to 'feel'

A bionic hand has been created that allows the amputee to actually feel sensation through the robotic fingers.

Scientists from Italy, Switzerland and Germany carried out the project which is "the first time an amputee has had real-time touch sesnsation from a prosthetic device", said Professor Silvetro Micera.

The scientific feat here was less about the electronics and more about the software that allowed the human brain to understand sensory feedback. Using computer algorithms, electric signals were transmitted into an impulse that sensory nerves could interpret.

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The patient, Mr Aabo, had four electrodes implanted on to nerves in his upper arm which were connected to the bionic hand. His first reaction was: "This is magic! I can feel the closing of my missing hand!"

He went on to say: "The biggest difference was when I grabbed something, I could feel what I was doing without having to look. I could use the hand in the dark. It was intuitive to use, and incredible to be able to feel whether objects were soft or hard, square or round."

Dr Alastair Ritchie, Lecturer in Biomaterials and Bioengineering at the University of Nottingham, said: "This technology would enable the user to know how firmly they are gripping an object, which is vital for handling fragile objects - imagine picking up an egg without any feeling in your fingers."

The team of scientists are now working on miniaturising the technology so it could be used at home. It may still be a good decade, claim scientists, before sensory feedback bionic hands are commercially available. But this start may pave the way for hands that can detect texture and temperature.

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