Sensors allow more natural sense of touch in prosthetics

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Stanford’s Zhenan Bao is developing technology that could restore a more natural sense of touch in prosthetics.  Her flexible, thin plastic sensors send signals to the brain that more closely resemble nerve messages of human skin touch sensors.

The disruptive technology has not yet been tested on humans, and researchers still need to find a safe way to pass electrical signals from prostheses to the brain for long periods.

Many teams are working toward this (see ApplySci coverage from 2013-2015).   Previous tactile sensors have however been analogue devices, where more pressure produces a stronger electrical signal, rather than a more frequent stream of pulses. The electrical signals must then be sent to another processing chip that converts the strength of the signals to a digital stream of pulses that is only then sent on to peripheral nerves or brain tissue.  Bao’s sensors send digital signals directly.

Click to view Stanford University video.

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