New Bionic Arm Blurs Line Between Self and Machine for Wearers
“At 29 years old, Canadian firefighter Rob Anderson lost his left arm and left leg to a harrowing helicopter crash into the side of a mountain. Although fitted with “top of the line” prosthetics for the last 10 years, he said, using them feels like “doing things with a long pair of pliers.”
Part of the problem is that he just doesn’t feel connected to his prosthetic hand. “There’s a disconnect between what you’re physically touching and what your body is doing,” he explained.
So when researchers at the University of Alberta offered him a place in a new prosthetics trial, he leaped at the chance.
The result, published this month in Science Translational Medicine, is a bionic arm strikingly different than anything that’s come before it. Once fitted, the arm uses vibrations and a sensory illusion to give wearers a natural sense of their robotic appendage moving through space. Even when blindfolded and wearing noise-canceling headphones, Anderson intuitively knew what his robotic arm was up to.
“It was kind of surreal,” he said…”
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