Skip to main content

Prosthetic limb used to restore 'near-natural' sense of touch, claims DARPA

Prosthetic limb used to restore 'near-natural' sense of touch, claims DARPA

Share this story

The US military agency DARPA says it has successfully restored a test subject's sense of touch using a prosthetic hand connected directly to the brain. The research was carried out on an anonymous 28-year-old man, who was paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury more than a decade ago. An array of electrodes was placed in the volunteer's sensory cortex (part of the brain that identifies touch) and connected to pressure sensors on a prosthetic hand, with electrical signals sent from the hand to the brain. When blindfolded, the subject was able to tell "with almost 100 percent accuracy" which of the mechanical fingers on the hand were being touched.

"The feelings he was perceiving ... were near-natural."

"At one point, instead of pressing one finger, the team decided to press two without telling him," said Justin Sanchez, head of DARPA's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which has been developing new upper-limb prosthetics since 2006. "He responded in jest asking whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him. That is when we knew that the feelings he was perceiving through the robotic hand were near-natural." DARPA previously released footage of their prosthetics work in February this year, showing a volunteer rock-climbing using a robot arm:

DARPA claims its research represents a first in the world of prosthetics, but the full extent of their work is not yet clear. It's not the first time that prosthetic limbs have been used to restore a sense of touch, but previous research has run up against limitations such as short-lived or imprecise sensations. But even if technology can never restore the full (and staggering) accuracy of our sense of touch, even a vague approximation can be incredibly helpful, making it easier for amputees to interact with objects and in some cases even eliminating the phantom pain associated with lost limbs.

DARPA's research is awaiting peer review

The work by DARPA is currently awaiting peer review and acceptance for publication in a scientific journal, reports the agency. However, its researchers are confident that they've taken a big step forward toward the "seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function" in prosthetic limbs. "Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain, it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements," said Sanchez. "We’ve completed the circuit."

Verge Video: Competing at the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 54 minutes ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

J
External Link
Jess Weatherbed54 minutes ago
Won’t anyone think of the billionaires?

Forbes reports that rising inflation and falling stock prices have collectively cost members of the Forbes 400 US rich list $500 billion in 2022 with tech tycoons suffering the biggest losses.

Jeff Bezos (worth $151 billion) lost $50 billion, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (worth a collective $182b) lost almost $60b, Mark Zuckerberg (worth $57.7b) lost $76.8b, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (worth $4.5b) lost $10.4b. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (worth $83b) lost $13.5b while his ex-boss Bill Gates (worth $106b) lost $28b, albeit $20b of that via charity donations.


T
Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.