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Creating a Prosthetic Hand That Can Feel

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The new prosthetic hand.

Researchers have developed a myoelectric haptic system and incorporated it into a prosthetic hand.

Credit: Mike McGregor

Researchers at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veteran Affairs Medical Center and partners have developed a "myoelectric" haptic system that is designed to work with a prosthetic hand.

The team has tested the system on amputee Igor Spetic, who previously had electrodes implanted in his right arm that can stimulate different nerve fibers and produce realistic sensations. Spetic was able to reach into a bowl in front of him and pick up a cherry by its stem 93 percent of the time with the haptic system turned on, compared to 43 percent with it turned off.

Spetic reported feeling as though he was grabbing the cherry, not just using a tool to grab it. As soon as the researchers turned on the stimulation, Spetic said, "it is my hand."

The researchers installed thin-film force sensors in the prosthesis' index and middle fingers and thumb, and used the signals from those sensors to trigger the corresponding nerve stimulation.

Work on the haptic interface partly falls under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's new Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces program, and the team is now working toward having a fully implantable system ready for clinical trials within five years.

From IEEE Spectrum
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