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New artificial limb device allows users to feel different temperatures

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sun, 26 May 2024, 12:25pm
Prototype joint
Prototype joint

New artificial limb device allows users to feel different temperatures

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sun, 26 May 2024, 12:25pm

For the first time, an artificial limb has been fitter with sensors on the fingertip which enable a standard prosthetic hand to sense and respond to temperature.

The new tech device provides the wearer with thermal information to the areas on the amputee's limb that have working nerve areas. The brain then believes that the arm is still connected to the missing hand and provides the user with a real sense of hot and cold.

The research published in the journal Med is more impressive, as it was built only using affordable electronics that can be bought off the shelf, and it’s simple design means it can be built and fitted in only a few hours.

In the initial testing, simple experiments were carried out where volunteers fitted with the sensors were asked to pick up and sort identical bottles or identical metal cubes that were at different temperatures.

The ability to pass this test is significant for amputees, as it helps them to stay safe by determining if something they are picking up is dangerously hot, for example if they were cooking.

When this first test was found to be easy, the researchers blindfolded the volunteers and asked them to guess if their prosthetic hand was touching another prosthetic hand or a real human hand. The volunteers were able to detect the warmth of the human hand, and identify it every time. This ability to sense the warmth of the hand of another person is a huge step forward for the world of prosthetics and helps a wearer to see their prosthetic as part of them rather than an external device.

The researchers are now working on a texture sensor system to add to the temperature equipment which could bring even more functionality to the world of prosthetics and help millions of amputees to ‘feel’ things again.

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