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Scientists wire amputee’s arm to robotic hand

The hand helps amputees feel differences in the shape and hardness of different objects



WASHINGTON—European researchers are working to create a prosthetic hand with a sense of touch.

The prototype hand lets an amputee feel differences in the shape and hardness of different objects, and adjust his grasp in response.

The patient got to experiment with the bulky prototype for a week, and it will take years of additional research before prosthetics that feel become a reality. But the research shows it’s possible.

Swiss and Italian researchers surgically implanted tiny electrodes into nerves in the man’s arm. They put sensors on two fingers of a robotic hand, then connected the two. The electrodes zapped the man’s nerves in proportion to what the sensors touched—so he could tell if objects were hard or soft or round.

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