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This bionic fingertip allows amputees to feel rough and smooth textures

The wearer is able to tell the difference between rough and smooth surfaces almost every time.

Image: EPFL

WORK ON ROBOTIC prosthetics have focused on functionality and reaction, but another area that it could improve on soon is touch.

Scientists have developed an artificial fingertip equipped with sensors, allowing amputees to feel the difference between a rough and smooth surface.

Developed by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the fingertip was surgically connected to nerves in an amputee.

The person who tested it out, amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen, had the fingertip connected to his stump and was able to tell the difference between smooth and rough plastics 96% of the time.

fingertip twitter Source: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)/YouTube

The nerves in Sørensen’s arm were wired to the fingertip while a machine controlled the movement of the fingertip over different pieces of plastic. Each piece was engraved with different patterns, giving them a rough or smooth feel.

When the finger moved over these patterns, an electric signal was generated and translated into a series of electrical spikes.

This mimicked the language of the nervous system which was then delivered to the nerves.

The researchers also tested it with non-amputees who had fine needles attached to the arm’s median nerve through the skin. Without requiring surgery, those testing it were able to distinguish roughness in textures 77% of the time.

They later tested how much it resembled the feeling of touch from a real finger by comparing brain wave activity of the non-amputees, once with the artificial fingertip and then with their own finger.

The brain waves collected by an EEG cap showed that activated regions in the brain shared some similarities.

Source: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)/YouTube

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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