Robotic body parts have been developed to not only function like lost limbs, but to allow people to feel through those robotic body parts. The article discusses the robotic arm that has been specially designed to connect with the patient’s brain so that he can control it. His movements and reactions are more realistic because there was a tactile component to the arm.
This is a significant improvement as previous robotic arms relied on the patient watching the movements, so the use of the arm was based solely on visual feedback. This meant that the patient might not have had a firm enough grip to lift items or could potentially break them. The addition of the tactile component meant that tasks were easier to finish, and it took the patient about half the amount of time to do tasks.
The work with the robotic arm has been done with the same patient who lost his arm about 15 years ago. Scientists added new sensory electrodes in his brain to process the new additions. He reported that the sensations of the robotic arms were similar to what he felt with his original hand. With the addition, he was able to work roughly as fast as someone with a biological hand. This was because he was able to determine how firm his grip was on the items he was lifting. He was also able to detect textures in objects.
Other prosthetic limbs have used vibrations to help better sense what they are doing, similar to the technology in smartphones. This new robotic arm is a step further to functioning like a natural limb. Ultimately, it will help with connecting with other people as they will be able to feel when they hold hands or have other interactions.
You can read or listen to the full article at Scientist Bring the Sense of Touch to a Robotic Arm.