Scientists create world's first bionic finger that gives hope to amputees


Bionic breakthrough: Scientists have already created the bionic hand. They can now unveil the bionic finger

An artificial finger that could give disabled people a sense of touch has been unveiled by scientists.

The digit has been developed as part of an EU-funded project into advanced artificial limbs.

It is hoped the Nanobiotact could also soon be used to give robots a sense of touch, allowing them to undertake far more delicate tasks than currently possible.

The finger uses thousands of tiny touch sensors, each smaller than a pinhead.

Researchers at Unilever, who are developing the finger, say the first working prototypes could be available within 18 months.

'We want to develop a machine with a sense of touch,' said Dr Simon Watson, who is leading the project.

'This brings us closer to the prospect of prosthetic hands that can provide the same sort of sensory feedback as the natural senses.

'One application is robotic devices for use by surgeons where the surgeon receives feedback from an instrument on what it is 'feeling', via gloves.'

Dr Watson, who was presenting his work today at the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool, said the work could also result in next generation computer games.

A second team at Unilever is investigating how the brain processes touch information, using a robot to analyse what levels of skin stimulation are passed to the brain.

The researchers have found that stroking the skin at 3-5cm per second, with a light touch, stimulates the brain most.

It is hoped the research will eventually allow prosthetic limbs to work with the brain more effectively.

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