The technology behind prosthetic limbs is constantly changing and evolving. One “holy grail” of prosthetic limb technology is to accurately and reliably simulate touch and feel of a natural limb in an artificial one.
Soon, according to researchers, that may be a very real possibility.
Researchers at the University of Illinois announced this month that they have designed an algorithm to give special prosthetic limbs the sensation of touch to their wearers.
These limbs are outfitted with electronics and sensors that, with the algorithm, can give amputees realistic sensations when they touch objects – something that has been elusive until very recently.
Of course, there are already advanced electronic prosthetic limbs that can provide some sensation of touch. However, these are relatively rudimentary and lack sophisticated algorithmic control to provide a consistent, ongoing, and accurate response.
The technology from the University of Illinois lab, though, can moderate signals from touching and handling objects and surfaces so that the sensation is prolonged and consistent.
The goal of the researchers is to give amputees limbs that feel like extensions of their bodies. That’s the goal of the prosthetic industry in general, but so far, accurate representations of touch have proven elusive. Plus, cost is an issue; advanced bionic limbs with that capability are prohibitively expensive for many.
The hope of the research team is to scale down the control module that handles the software and sensors so that it can fit within a normal-sized prosthetic limb and be affordable enough to be mostly or totally covered by insurance.
Reliable and consistent feedback is something that every amputee would love to have in their prosthetic limbs. With this new breakthrough, we’re one step closer to having that capability across all prosthetic limbs at some point in the future.
At BioTech, we’re all about using technology to improve the experience of our patients. That’s why we employ advanced methods to ensure a better fit and better performance for our patients who wear our limbs.