The SmartHand smart bio-adaptive hand prosthesis does more than just replicate the physical functionality of a real human hand. The SmartHand also uses a unique technology to provide the user with a measure of sensation when using the SmartHand.
The robotic hand has forty sensors that are activated when pressed on by an object. These sensors are connected to the patients's remaining nerves in the upper arm; the stimulus can be interpreted by the brain as coming from the SmartHand.
(SmartHand smart bio-adaptive hand prosthesis video)
Robin af Ekenstam, an amputee from Sweden, was astounded by the result. An aggressive tumour discovered on his right wrist forced Mr af Ekenstam to amputate his limb in order to save his life and stop the cancer from spreading to the rest of his body. He currently wears an electronic hook, but the problem with this device is that he cannot feel what the hook does and handling is at a minimum.
'I am using muscles which I haven't used for years,' television news channel euronews quoted Mr af Ekenstam, the first amputee to try the hand, as saying. 'That is very hard. But if you are able to control a movement, it is great. It is a feeling that I have not had for a long time. And now I am also getting the sensation back from small motors, which put pressure on certain spots on my hand,' he said. 'When I grab something hard, then I can feel it in the fingertips, which is strange, as I don't have them anymore. It's amazing.'
I'm sure there are earlier examples, but this development made me flash back to the bionic arm from the fertile imagination of Martin Caidin in his 1972 novel Cyborg:
"When you think to pick up an object, what happened before with your original arm is repeated. The electrical impulses generated by your brain command everything... The artificial muscles.. which in this case are silastic and vitallium pulleys, then contract, twist, and tighten. You can even sense with your fingertips..."
(Read more about Caidin's bionic arm)