Swedish researchers announce mind-controlled bionic arm
A team of researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, has recently announced the development of a mind-controlled bionic arm that is set to revolutionise the field of prosthetics.
How is the arm different from other prosthetics?
The arm is designed to provide amputees with a regained sense of touch so that they can live their lives as normally as possible. According to a report by the German News Agency, unlike established prosthetics for limbs that can be painful and tricky to manoeuvre, the new arm is directly connected to the nerves, muscle and bone that remains in the amputated limb.
Associate Professor at the Biomedical Signals and Systems research unit at the Chalmers University of Technology, Max Ortiz-Catalan, said: “This connection means the arm can operate much more precisely. The most novel advance, though, is that the prosthesis allows people to feel what the hand is touching.”
How does it work?
The arm’s nerves and muscles are implanted with electrodes, which are used to emit signals between the prosthesis and the brain in two directions. The signals are then analysed by the prothesis’s small, embedded control system using artificial intelligence algorithms that enable it to interpret pressure on the bionic hand.
So far, the new technology is to be distributed in Sweden alone, but the research team hopes to make the arm available in a number of other countries within the next two years. The research team from the Chalmers University of Technology are also currently developing a leg prosthesis with similar technology, which they hope to test on a patient for the first time at the end of 2020.
Dr Catalan also said that despite the promising results of initial testing, there is still a great deal of development that needs to be done in the field.
“We are not under the illusion that this technology is perfect – there is still a long way to go,” he said, “In the meantime, we are looking to increase functionality by adding more sensations and more control.”
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Film: Johan Bodell. Illustration: Sara Manca/Yen Strandqvist – Chalmers University of Technology.