Are we coming upon the era of bionic limbs? Another company has created a robotic hand that can be controlled by the wearer's thoughts and restores tactile sensation — and the subject claims it feels almost like a real hand.
An Italian research team, lead by neurologist Paolo Maria Rossini, created the LifeHand, the latest in a long line of robotic prostheses. The team performed microsurgery to attach the hand 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello, who lost much of his left hand in a car accident. Petruzziello apparently mastered the hand in just a few days, and it responded to 95 percent of his mental commands. He claims that he also received incredible sensory feedback from the hand, even registering needle pinpricks.
Several weeks ago, another team reported successful experiments with an artificial hand that provided sensory feedback, but the LifeHand team claims that the experiments with Petruzziello represent the first time a subject has made achieved such complex movements with a prosthetic using only their mind. It's also the longest a subject has worn such a prosthetic; Petruzziello wore the LifeHand for a month. More research is needed, however, before a prosthetic can be tested long-term.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the LifeHand is that it didn't require Petruzziello to learn any new neurological tricks. He simply sends the same sorts of signals to the robotic hand as he sends his right hand, and gets nearly the same result.