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New bionic hand with eyes could be a game changer for amputees

A bionic hand fitted with a camera that allows the wearer to reach for objects without thinking, will be tested by patients at a British hospital.

“Using computer vision, we have developed a bionic hand which can respond automatically — in fact, just like a real hand,” said Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, a  senior lecturer at Newcastle University and coauthor of a study on the device. “The user can reach out and pick up a cup or a biscuit with nothing more than a quick glance in the right direction.”

The hand has already been tested on a few amputees and now the Newcastle University team is working to offer the “’hands with eyes” to patients at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

The camera  “’sees” an object, picks the most appropriate grasp and sends a signal to the hand — all within a matter of milliseconds and 10 times faster than any other limb currently on the market, the university said.

The work is part of a larger research project to develop a bionic hand that can sense pressure and temperature and transmit the information back to the brain.

The goal is to develop electronic devices that connect to the forearm neural networks to allow two-way communications with the brain. The electrodes in the bionic limb would wrap around the nerve endings in the arm to establish direct communication between the brain and the prosthesis.

The “hand that sees” is an interim solution that will bridge the gap between current designs and the future, Nazarpour said.

“It’s a stepping stone towards our ultimate goal,” he says. “But importantly, it’s cheap and it can be implemented soon because it doesn’t require new prosthetics — we can just adapt the ones we have.”

A study on the new device is published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

By: David Beasley Staff Writer

Source: Newcastle University

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