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Bionic fingertip gives amputee a feel for different textures

A man who had his lower arm amputated has regained a realistic sense of texture using a bionic finger surgically connected to his nerves

“I could tell the difference between rough and smooth – it was amazing,” says Dennis Sørensen.

People who have had their hand or arm amputated can use a prosthetic body part to help them lift or grip objects. A device that could also recreate their sense of touch would make it easier for them to identify and manipulate objects.

To replicate this sense, Silvestro Micera and his team at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed a bionic finger containing electromechanical sensors that deform when touched.

The sensors send an electrical signal to a computer. This converts the signal into a sequence of on-off commands, stimulating nerves via electrodes surgically inserted into the upper arm. The patterns of stimulation closely emulate those that naturally occur when you run your finger across different textures.

Realistic touch

To test the sensors, Micera’s team hooked the bionic finger up to a machine that moved it over different pieces of plastic engraved with smooth or rough textures. The finger was also connected to electrodes surgically implanted in Sørensen’s upper arm.

When the finger moved, he experienced the sensation of texture where the index finger of his amputated arm had been. He could distinguish between surfaces 96 per cent of the time.

“It was very close to the feeling in my real arm – you can feel coarseness and the different gaps and ridges,” says Sørensen, who lost his lower arm in a firework accident in 2003 after a rocket blew up in his hand.

The idea is to eventually combine the fingertip sensors within a full prosthesis, allowing people to grip and feel objects.

No surgery required

Micera’s team also tested the bionic finger on four non-amputees using a single electrode inserted into the upper arm like an acupuncture needle. These volunteers were able to distinguish textures 77 per cent of the time.

The minimally invasive procedure should help accelerate the development of realistic-touch prostheses because it means they can be tested without the need for surgery.

By comparing the non-amputees’ brainwaves when they felt texture using their real finger and the bionic version, Micera’s team demonstrated that the sensations picked up by the bionic finger did indeed resemble those felt naturally.

“The brainwaves were similar in both experiments,” says team member Calogero Oddo at the Biorobotics Institute in Pisa, Italy.

Rough and ready

A previous study by Dustin Tyler at the Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and his colleagues in 2014 gave amputees back a sense of touch and pressure, allowing them to pull the stalks off cherrieswithout crushing the fruit.

Very important characteristics of sensations were shown in Tyler’s experiments, such as force and pressure, but not fine textures, says Oddo. “Now we are working towards allowing amputees to experience more natural stimuli like the texture of jeans – the things you would touch in the real world.”

Journal reference: eLife, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09148.001

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2079808-bionic-fingertip-gives-amputee-a-feel-for-different-textures/

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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