Losing an arm is extremely traumatic for victims. In addition to being painful, it poses severe physical limitations and ends careers for most people. Prosthetics provide some degree of convenience by allowing a limited range of applications. However, most people who have lost an arm avoid artificial limbs due to biological rejection or the marked lack of proprioceptive capabilities. For those that are unaware, proprioception is the awareness of the relative position of one’s own body parts. For example, everyone is aware of where their left index finger is and won’t have any difficulty in grabbing that finger with their right hand even with a blindfold. Furthermore, people can know the approximate size of an object in their hands without looking. Prosthetics, however, don’t offer that luxury.
That might soon change as a team of scientists from Switzerland, Italy and German have developed an artificial hand that can offer proprioceptive awareness. It piggybacks on the existing technology of transmitting touch information to the brain through electrodes attached to nerves in the arm and improvises it to add positional awareness. Having a sense of location of your artificial hand would give it a much more realistic feeling and make it more comfortable and convenient to use. People who use prosthetics wouldn’t know if their hand is holding an object, applying pressure, feel an object’s shape and size or have any of the feelings that come naturally with a real hand.
This invention is sure to benefit all people who are unfortunate enough to lose a hand.