An international team from Qatar, Singapore, Germany and India is revolutionising prosthetic hand design with their research on “Illusory Sense of Human Touch from a Warm and Soft Artificial Hand”.
The research is led by Dr John-John Cabibihan, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Qatar University College of Engineering (QU-CENG).
The study showed that an illusion of human touch can be created by a warm and soft artificial hand to the person being touched. When applied to prosthetic hands, these findings have a potential to help prosthesis users cope with the psychosocial effects of losing a part of their body.
The study was published in IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering in May 2015 and was highlighted in an article on “The Truth about the Turing Test” on BBC Future in July 2015. The team created an artificial hand by acquiring a detailed geometry of a human hand with computer tomography imaging, replicating its skeleton with 3D printing technologies, and substituting the skin tissue with a silicon material with lifelike softness. Beneath the soft skin are heaters that create perceptually acceptable warmth on the artificial skin’s surface.
Dr Cabibihan said: “This cutting-edge research opens the possibilities for prosthetic and robotic hands that are lifelike and are more socially acceptable.”
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