First portable bionic hand and arm with a sense of touch revealed by Scientists in Rome


Orange County, CA - February 5th 2018 -  Scientists in Rome have developed the first bionic arm with a sense of touch that is portable and can be worn outside of a laboratory. Back in 2014, the team was successful in creating the world’s first feeling bionic hand, but the computer equipment and sensory technology was too large for travel. The new technology is small enough to fit into a backpack and allow free movement.

The recipient of the new invention was Almerina Mascarello, a woman who lost her left hand in an accident 25 years ago. In an interview with the BBC, Mascarello reported that it felt like her arm was “almost back again.” She told the reporter, “The feeling is spontaneous as if it were your real hand; you're finally able to do things that before were difficult, like getting dressed, putting on shoes - all mundane but important things - you feel complete."

Portable Bionic Hand with a Sense of Touch Unveiled in Rome

Composed of international engineers, neuroscientists, surgeons, and electronics and robotics specialists, it only took the team 3 years to downscale the technology. The hands success is derived from its sensors, capable of relaying computer signals comprehensively to the brain. The coded signals are relayed to Almerina’s brain through tiny electrodes implanted in the nerves of her upper arm. In clinical trials, although blindfolded, Almerina was able to tell whether the object she was picking up was hard or soft.

In another interview with the BBC, Professor Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at EPFL in Lausanne and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa likened the invention to science fiction. "We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies like Luke Skywalker's bionic hand in Star Wars - a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorized prosthesis, identical to the human hand." The team’s breakthrough is a step in the right direction in achieving a robotic arm equivalent to the human hand.

Unfortunately, the arm is still a prototype and Almerina had to return the prosthesis after a six month trial. Still in the developmental stages, the team hopes to further miniaturize the technology to offer a version of the portable, sensory bionic hand commercially.


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