Breakthrough Bionic Finger Feels Texture

Breakthrough Bionic Finger Feels Texture

An amputee was able to feel smoothness and roughness in real-time with an artificial fingertip that was surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm.

Dennis Aabo Sørensen, is the first person in the world to recognise texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes that were surgically implanted above his stump.

This breakthrough could bring in a new wave of bionic body parts, enhanced with sensory feedback. It could also help in improving haptics for interacting with virtual worlds for non-amputees and amputees alike, and be translated to other applications such as artificial touch in robotics for surgery, rescue, and manufacturing.
This advanced tactile information was developed by teams at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna).

Nerves in Sørensen's arm were wired to an artificial fingertip equipped with sensors. A machine controlled the movement of the fingertip over different pieces of plastic engraved with different patterns, smooth or rough. As the fingertip moved across the textured plastic, the sensors generated an electrical signal. This signal was translated into a series of electrical spikes, imitating the language of the nervous system, then delivered to the nerves.

The same experiment, carried out with non-amputees, proved that a similar sensation could be delivered to everyone, using fine needles that were temporarily attached to the arm's median nerve through the skin.

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