Bionic hand automatically sees and grabs objects

A bionic hand that “sees” objects and instantly decides what kind of grip to adopt has been developed by scientists at Newcastle University (BBC News, 2017).

A computer uses a camera to assess an object’s shape and size and then trigger the correct movement to pick it up.

The technology has been trialled by a small number of amputees.

Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering at Newcastle University, said the bionic hand can “respond automatically”.

He said “Prosthetic limbs have changed very little in the past 100 years. Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs. For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg so prosthetics seem slow and cumbersome in comparison. Now, for the first time in a century, we have developed an ‘intuitive’ hand that can react without thinking.”

Researchers said the device could spark a new generation of prosthetic limbs giving the wearer the ability to grip objects without the use of their brain.

The team, whose work is reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering, programmed the hand to react within milliseconds and perform four different “grasps” suitable for picking up a cup, holding a TV controller, and gripping objects with a thumb and two fingers or a pinched thumb and first finger.

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