A soft robotic hand controlled by nerve signals and with tactile feedback
The bionic man is sci-fi right? Not any more. State-of-the-art artificial limbs are called neuroprosthetics. They connect with the amputee’s nervous system, usually through the muscles where the limb was severed. In most neuroprosthetics the fingers are mechanical and moved by electronic motors. But this means they are rigid, heavy, and very expensive. Here, a new generation of ‘soft robotics’ are being developed which use pneumatics and hydrogel for movement. This means the prosthetic can be both pliable and lightweight. Furthermore, the fingertips have electronic sensors which are linked back to the nerves, so, the wearer can detect pressure. The image shows a soft robotic hand being used to lift a fragile object, something it’s predecessor would have crushed. And the price? Not six million dollars, in fact it is a fraction of the cost of the mechanical forerunner, making it affordable to all.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.