Boffins give amputee the finger – a bionic touch-sensitive fingertip

We can rebuild him…


Technology has made great strides in building biomechanical systems for amputees, but using tech to replace touch has proven problematic.

Now a joint project by the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (SSSA) has developed a bionic fingertip that's capable of sensing the rough and the smooth.

The finger has sensors studded across the surface that generate electrical signals when moving across a ribbed or uneven surface. Those signals are then fed back to a nerve graft in the patient's arm and register with the brain, with a 96 per cent success rate at defining textures.

"The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand," said amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen, who tried the finger. "I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand."

The team also tested the device out on non-amputees for correlation. Surprisingly, the intact testers had a lower success rate in detecting texture, reporting a 77 per cent success rate.

In both cases, the testers were linked up to EEG brain monitoring equipment to see how their brains were handling the sensation. The scientists saw brain activity in exactly the spot where you'd expect for handling touch sensations.

"This study merges fundamental sciences and applied engineering: it provides additional evidence that research in neuroprosthetics can contribute to the neuroscience debate, specifically about the neuronal mechanisms of the human sense of touch," said Calogero Oddo of the BioRobotics Institute of SSSA.

"It will also be translated to other applications such as artificial touch in robotics for surgery, rescue, and manufacturing." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading
  • UK government having hard time complying with its own IR35 tax rules
    This shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've been reading the headlines at all

    Government departments are guilty of high levels of non-compliance with the UK's off-payroll tax regime, according to a report by MPs.

    Difficulties meeting the IR35 rules, which apply to many IT contractors, in central government reflect poor implementation by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other government bodies, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

    "Central government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds to cover tax owed for individuals wrongly assessed as self-employed. Government departments and agencies owed, or expected to owe, HMRC £263 million in 2020–21 due to incorrect administration of the rules," the report said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022