Thanks to newly unveiled research, Dennis Aabo Sorensen was given back the gift of touch for a very short period of time. After losing his hand in an accident 10 years ago, Sorensen is the first test subject of the NEBIAS (NEurocontrolled BIdirectional Artificial upper limb and hand prosthesiS) lab, comprised of a team of European researchers. Sorensen underwent a four-week trial wearing a bionic hand and was observed in a clinical setting.
The bionic hand, developed by scientists in the NEBIAS lab, is unique by being the first prosthetic to give the wearer the ability to feel and introduces sensory bidirectionality. Using sensors implanted in the prosthetic hand and using electrical stimulation of nerves in the arm, information from the outside world is transmitted and the appropriate signals are sent to the brain. The wearer can also control the device.
Sorensen, for the first time in 10 years since his amputation, was able to identify various objects’ size, shape, and stiffness while blindfolded and shielded acoustically. This prototype is still several years away from its public release, but it will certainly offer a great improvement to prosthetic users by offering a more natural experience. The NEBIAS lab intends to pursue more long-term subjects and improve upon hand and other upper limb prosthetics.
Improved quality of life for those in need of prosthetics is just one result of this research. Many injuries result in nerve damage or interruptions to the sensory feedback system; similar tools can be applied in their advancement. And it’s also cool to think we can bring senses back.