DARPA prosthetic hand restores sense of touch to paralyzed man

darpa prosthetic hand touch
DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program is breaking new ground with a prosthetic hand that provides a sense of touch to the person who is wearing it. This research builds upon an earlier experiment in which a volunteer with paralysis was able to control a prosthetic hand using only his thoughts. After its success with movement, the researchers wanted to add touch to the artificial hand, making it possible for those with paralysis to perform precise movements that require both movement and touch feedback.

In its most recent experiment, researchers placed a series of electrode arrays onto both the sensory cortex and the motor cortex of a volunteer’s brain. The sensory cortex is the region of the brain responsible for sensing touch while the motor cortex manages the movement. This direct motor cortex connection was used by a volunteer to control a prosthetic hand with his thoughts in an earlier, groundbreaking DARPA experiment.

Using the knowledge gleaned from their motor cortex work, DARPA scientists wired the sensory connection in the volunteer’s brain to torque sensors in the artificial hand. These hand sensors translated the physical touch of an object to electrical signals that the brain can read. The connection and translation process allowed a 28-year-old volunteer, who was paralyzed following a spinal injury, to sense touch. The volunteer reported feeling a near natural sensation “as if his own hand were being touched.”

The sense of touch was very noticeable to the volunteer, who was able to report with near 100 percent accuracy which finger on the prosthetic hand was being touched. The researchers even tried to fool the volunteer by touching two fingers without telling him and he responded by asking”whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him.”

Neurotechnology advances won’t eliminate paralysis, however, the scientists at DARPA hope the knowledge gained from the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program will provide a tangible benefit for those living with paralysis. DARPA presented its initial findings on its touch prosthetic hand at the recent Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum with a detailed report to be released following peer review and publication in a scientific journal.

Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.

Get a head start mastering Apex Legend's newest character Octane with our guide

Apex Legends' newest legend Octane ran so fast in the Titanfall 2 gauntlet that he blew off his legs. Now dropping into Kings Canyon with prosthetics, Octane's ability set is still centered around speed. Here's how to play as Octane.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.