The mind-controlled bionic hand that also controls your mind

By Graham Templeton on February 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

From speech recognition to prosthetic legs, we’ve all but perfected the art of forcing computers to listen. Whether our input comes in the form of keystrokes or action potentials, by far our biggest concern in robotics has been finding ways to make machines better at understanding what we want from them. This week, a team of Swiss researchers announced that it will begin testing a new “sensing” bionic hand, one which looks to explore our ideas about the relationship between brain and machine. Now, it is the robots’ turn to speak.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of training a computer, perhaps teaching a speech recognition program the nuances of our voice or accent. There is little conceptual distance between how you say the word “roof” and how you try to clench a fist; to a computer with the proper recording device, it’s all just numbers in a matrix. When an unnamed Italian man gets his experimental new hand, however, it is the human who will have to learn an alien tongue. The system uses nanoscale wires fused to the ends of the median and ulnar nerves to allow communication both to and from the brain — but even properly attached, a robotic pressure sensor is an alien thing. The first step in becoming a cyborg? Figuring out which finger is which.

Each fingertip, along with the palm and wrist, will be able to transmit signals independently, for what lead researcher Silvestro Micera calls a truly realistic feeling hand. Details on just what this means are unfortunately quite slim; Micera spoke at the AGM for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and since this is not a published paper it is woefully lacking in mechanical explanation. Micera has been publishing on thought-controlled prosthetics for years, but has not yet gone into too much detail on his research into prosthetic-controlled thoughts.

Read more: The mind-controlled bionic hand that also controls your mind | ExtremeTech.

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