Almerina Mascarello lost her left hand in an accident nearly 25 years ago. Despite her missing limb, the London woman can feel through a bionic hand that mimics the sense of touch.

It is the first portable bionic hand that can be worn outside a laboratory.

“We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies like Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in Star Wars — a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorised prosthesis, identical to the human hand,” said Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

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“The feeling is spontaneous as if it were your real hand; you’re finally able to do things that before were difficult, like getting dressed, putting on shoes — all mundane but important things — you feel complete,” – Mascarello

How does it function?

The prosthetic hand has sensors that detect information about whether an object is soft or hard. These messages are linked to a computer in a rucksack that converts these signals into a language the brain will understand. The information is relayed to Mascarello’s brain via tiny electrodes implanted in nerves in the upper arm.

In tests, Mascarello could identify whether the object she was picking up was hard or soft while she was still blindfolded.

“The feeling is spontaneous as if it were your real hand; you’re finally able to do things that before were difficult, like getting dressed, putting on shoes — all mundane but important things — you feel complete,” Mascarello was quoted as saying by the ‘BBC News’.

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Mascarello was able to keep the bionic hand for six months. It has now been removed as it is still a prototype.
A robotic prosthesis better than the human hand is a distant dream. The team, however, is sure that might eventually be a reality in future.
Picture Credit: The Times
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