The Bionic Man Updated
Steve Austin was the ultimate robot. We now have the capability to reproduce his vision, his speed, and finally his strength. The hardest nut to crack in the puzzle has always been the hand.
Now a new bionic hand has for the first time helped a man feel the objects he is holding and tell how big they are and whether they’re hard or soft. It’s the first time anyone using a prosthetic has been able to really feel what he’s picking up, and it’s the latest development in field that has allowed people to control prosthetic devices with thought alone, and to manipulate objects with ever-increasing dexterity.
“It was quite amazing because suddenly I could feel something that I hadn’t been feeling for nine years,” said 36-year-old Dennis Aabo Sorensen of Aalborg in Denmark, who lost his hand and part of his arm in when a faulty fireworks rocket exploded as he lit it in on New Year’s Eve 2004.
It’s not quite ready for prime time. Sorensen had to undergo delicate surgery to have electrodes implanted in the nerves of his upper arm, and then months of training to use the device.
Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland and colleagues at the BioRobotics Institute at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, developed the device, which is described in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
They had to equip the artificial hand with sensors to detect an object’s pliability and shape and translate this into an electrical signal. They had to figure out how to translate this signal into something a human nerve could understand and conduct to the brain. The next steps is implanting the electrodes which could take seven or eight hours of surgery, Sorensen said.
As Rudy said to Oscar Goldman, ” We have the technology.”