Everyone here at Dream It Do It Nebraska is in agreement: Robots are awesome. Especially robots involved in prosthetic limbs, which are helping to make peoples’ lives easier. And last week, a new breakthrough was made for robotic hands.
Dennis Aabo Sorenson—a man who lost his arm in a fireworks accident—is now able to feel pressure on three fingers of his prosthetic hand. This new robotic hand uses a device implanted in the user’s forearm that connects feedback from the hand directly to the nerves in the user’s body.
This new breakthrough in prosthetic limbs was undertaken by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. They’ve made great strides in conveying different pressures in robotic limbs—anything from cotton balls to sand paper to ball bearings.
The researchers were able to insert electrodes into the patient’s ulnar and median arm nerves, allowing the robotic hand to translate forces from the hand into electrical signals that he could feel. “It was quite amazing,” Sorenson said. “Suddenly, when I was doing the movements, I could feel what I was doing, instead of looking at what I was doing.”
Sorenson is the first amputee to feel—in real time—sensations from a prosthetic limb. “The results are looking good in the short run,” says Jack Judy, director of the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technologies at the University of Florida, Gainesville. “The real concern [however] is the long-term.”
If this new technology is able to last and perform adequately for a long period of time, “this novel alternative approach could significantly improve the quality of life of amputees,” says Judy. The researchers on the project are also confident that the implant can last for a very, very long time.
Robots like this new prosthetic limb have become the way of the future. Whether we’re talking about robots building houses, or robotics allowing an amputee to feel sensations again, new technologies will not only make life more enjoyable for future generations, but will also create research opportunities and jobs in the manufacturing business.
If you share our beliefs that robots are too cool to ignore, then we encourage you to check out the Robotics Expo at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland on February 22nd. We hope to see you there—it’s a great place to become interested in the great new gadgets, electronics, and robots that will be powering our way to the future, just like this new prosthetic limb.
One last thing to remember: this is only a small step towards a brighter future. We will need innovators like you to carry us into that future.
Photo credit: MIT Tech Review