The Gift of the Senses – Bionic Hand and Eye


Science gives us amazing things, this is one of those times you think you won’t live to see this happen and BAM! It is right here, right now! When you saw Darth Vader cut off Luke Skywalker’s hand and then he got a new prosthetic hand that could literally do everything that an ordinary hand could do, how long did you think that it would take for science to come up with that?

While the field of biotechnology is doing wonders in it is own respect by growing organs in Petri dishes and getting noble prizes for stem cell research, the field of prosthesis is not slacking either.
Usually the field of prosthesis is a one-way street, the artificial limb helps you or does things for you but you don’t get any feedback from it, which is all history now. Although the amputee community was saddened with arrest of the iconic blade runner Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend, science is here to save the day. The scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have designed a prosthetic hand that can feel what they are touching. The wiring of this new bionic hand will be connected directly to the patient’s nervous system with which will allow him/her to control the the hand as well as receive signals of touch and sensation from the hand’s skin sensors.

The patient is an unnamed man in his 20s living in Rome who lost the lower part of his arm following an accident, said Dr. Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.

This should allow the man to control the hand just by thinking about it, as well as receive information directly to his brain, regarding the sense of touch. Thus this revolutionary arm surpasses all its predecessors by serving as a hand as well as a sensory input.
On related news, Bionic eye! Well, it won’t restore eyesight completely but it will help people distinguish between light and dark. At least we are on the way to complete restoration!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a device created by Second Sight Medical Products that can be used to treat a rare type of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited, degenerative eye disease in which there is damage to the retina and as a result eventually causes blindness. The retina is a layer of light sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye which converts incoming light images into nerve signals and sends them to the brain.

The artificial retina which is called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, is the first device which can be implanted to treat the condition. It is approved for people over the age of 25 with advanced Retinal Pigmentosa who can see some light.
The device consists of two parts, a panel of electrodes which are surgically implanted directly into the optic nerves of the eye and a pair of glasses, which looks similar to Google glasses, with a camera. The camera captures the images and sends the images to the electrodes which are implanted in the optic nerve that signals the brain to “see” images, thereby bypassing the damaged retina or the eye itself. In the future, it may also be able to treat other conditions like macular degeneration if approved.

We all know that cochlear implants have been doing wonders to the hearing challenged for decades now. This is a 29 year old women, hearing for the first time in her life, heart-warming!

Science and Technology seem to be conquering the senses one by one, blurring the distinction between what is human and what is machine. Sometimes, it will even let you reach for something more, transhumanistic. What if you are more than just a mere mortal, what if you have more senses than a normal human being? What if you can beat the ‘Human Condition’? For starters, What if you can hear colours? This guy can!

Meet Neil Harbisson, World’s first officially recognized Cyborg. I’m not going to tell you about him, let that curiosity of yours run wild!



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