Advanced Prosthetics Can Now Perceive Temperature

advanced prosthetics, advanced, prosthetics

Researchers have put together a system for advanced prosthetics that can transmit the temperature variations of a held or touched object.

  • MiniTouch system integrates fingertip sensors into prosthetic hands to provide real-time temperature feedback.
  • Off-the-shelf electronics power the MiniTouch, making it an affordable option for users.

Researchers have engineered MiniTouch, an advanced prosthetic limb that can perceive and respond to temperature variations.

Published in Med, the study details how the MiniTouch system integrates fingertip sensors into existing commercial prosthetic hands. It can provide real-time temperature feedback.

So, sensors in the fingertips detect the temperature of the held/touched object. The feedback goes through the robotic prosthetic hand to the thermode. Now, the thermode would have been specifically placed at the part of the amputation site that reliably projects thermal sensations. If the sensor senses something cold, the user would feel a cold feeling where the thermode meets the skin.

What makes this really interesting is that it sounds expensive, but the materials are off-the-shelf electronics. It doesn’t get more affordable than that.

Fabrizio Fidati, a participant in the study and a long-time amputee, expressed his excitement about the newfound capabilities of his prosthetic limb. “With these new technologies, I can understand better what I am touching.”

He managed to accurately discern between the different temperatures of water-filled bottles. He also was able to differentiate between various materials and objects.  

It offers a realistic sense of touch outside the conventional tactile feedback. The ability to sense temperature not only enhances the functional aspect of prosthetic arms but also imbues them with a profound human element.

Not having a limb, regardless of the reason, is not easy to process, especially emotionally. Some people fully embrace the cyborg “aesthetic” with bionic limbs. So, you see very futuristic-looking prosthetics. Others prefer a more subtle look. They want their prosthetic to imitate as much as possible their original hand. To those people, feeling like the coldness of a glass of water on a hot summer day is something they thought they could never have back.

As innovative and creative as this is, its functionality is the least interesting perk about it. It restores, to a certain extent, the sensations in that area. The MiniTouch enriches the emotional aspect of touch.

Imagine if the person was on a date and shook their date’s hand. They may not be able to feel the skin or the pressure of the handshake, but the person can tell if the date is nervous or perhaps cold.

We manage to communicate every day without talking. And our ability to perceive the world around us through all of our senses plays a major role in feeling that we belong.

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