Feelings Like a Real Hand -- COMPAMED Trade Fair
photo: The SmartHand device
Like a real hand? The test person
says he can feel with the prothesis;
© American Friends of Tel Aviv

Robin af Ekenstam of Sweden, the project's first human subject, has not only been able to complete extremely complicated tasks like eating and writing, he reports he is also able to "feel" his fingers once again.

The researchers created an interface between the body's nerves and the device's electronics. "Perfectly good nerve endings remain at the stem of a severed limb," the researcher says. "Our team is building the interface between the device and the nerves in the arm, connecting cognitive neuroscience with state-of-the-art information technologies."

"Our challenge," remarks Yosi Shacham-Diamand from Tel Aviv University, "was to make an electrode that was not only flexible, but could be implanted in the human body and function properly for at least 20 years." The device will belong to Ekenstam, the test subject, as long as he wishes. "After only a few training sessions, he is operating the artificial hand as though it is his own," says Shacham-Diamand. "We have built in tactile sensors too, so the information transfer goes two ways. These allow Ekenstam to do difficult tasks like eating and writing."

Ekenstam told a television interviewer, "I am using muscles which I haven't used for years. I grab something hard, and then I can feel it in the fingertips, which is strange, as I don't have them anymore. It's amazing." The project integrated recent advances in today's "intelligent" prosthetic hands with all the basic features of a flesh-and-blood hand. Four electric motors and 40 sensors are activated when this new artificial hand touches an object, not only replicating the movement of a human hand, but also providing the wearer with a sensation of feeling and touch.

COMPAMED.de; Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University