DARPA, the ridiculous branch of the US Department of Defense that does nothing but invent conspiracy-theory-level gadgets and doodads, has really outdone themselves this time.
The agency revealed via press release that their Revolutionizing Prosthetics program has made a major breakthrough: a 28-year-old unnamed, paralyzed man, "has become the first person to be able to 'feel' physical sensations through a prosthetic hand directly connected to his brain, and even identify which mechanical finger is being gently touched." That's right: truly functional prosthetics are on the way.
The artificial limb can "feel" using neurotechnology, via wires connected to both the man's brain's motor cortex and the prosthetic itself. A series of sensors can relay feelings from the hand, which are then interpreted by the brain -- not unlike a normal functional limb behaves with the nervous system. DARPA breakthroughs have produced prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by "thought," but this is the first time that anything resembling sensation has been achieved.
"In the very first set of tests, in which researchers gently touched each of the prosthetic hand’s fingers while the volunteer was blindfolded, he was able to report with nearly 100 percent accuracy which mechanical finger was being touched. The feeling, he reported, was as if his own hand were being touched."
With this news, we're excited to see the incredible uses of the tech for the many well-deserving people out there without all of their appendages. Also, we're excited to see how long it'll take the tech to reach The Empire Strikes Back-level heights so that people can become real-life Luke Skywalkers (you know, without the mind powers).
Brett Williams is an editorial assistant at Supercompressor. He's hoping that this is just the start of a new future for prosthetics.
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