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Robotics Hardware

`Bionic' Arm Brings Back Sense of Touch 234

bdcrazy writes "Two way communication with prosthetic devices allows man who lost both arms in an accident to feel hot and cold, to sense objects and to actually move the prosthetic device to pick things up and put them down. "
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`Bionic' Arm Brings Back Sense of Touch

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  • Nice (Score:5, Funny)

    by natron 2.0 ( 615149 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (97sretepdn)> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:29PM (#12892225) Homepage Journal
    It is well and good until the arms short circuit and try to kill him...
  • Flashback (Score:5, Funny)

    by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:29PM (#12892229) Homepage Journal robot pricking each finger and palm, one by one, as the patient says "ow!" and then wrapping the prosthetic arm in a black glove...
  • Step 2 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nytewynd ( 829901 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:29PM (#12892232)
    The next step is finding out that Darth Vader is your daddy.
  • Peltier Junction (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:30PM (#12892243) Homepage
    These work using a peltier junction. For those not "in-the-know", peltier junctions are basically chunks of metal that push heat to one side when you run current through them one way, and the other side when you run current through them the other way. This provides a cold, and a hot side that can be varied very quickly from cold to hot, by changing the amount and direction of the current. They are very inefficient though, requiring a lot of current that is generated as excess heat overall. These are commonly used to cool processor cores down, pushing more heat into the heatsink, but keeping the core cooler than it would be with just a heatsink.

    • Re:Peltier Junction (Score:4, Informative)

      by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:41PM (#12892425)
      These are commonly used to cool processor cores down, pushing more heat into the heatsink, but keeping the core cooler than it would be with just a heatsink.
      I'd disagree that they're "commonly used" for CPU cooling. Peltier heat sink assemblies have fallen way out of vogue in the last few years and were never particularly popular in the first place. Problems like generating a significantly higher amount of waste heat, while simultaneously creating a frost (no kidding) and condensation problem made them extremely impractical when faced with water cooling options.

      That being said, peltier cooling IS commonly used in those little desk top refridgerators and portable DC cooler/warmers that you see for sale in RV catalogs.

      • Peltier junctions are most often used for CPU cooling, I suppose is what I meant to say, though that was just a guess. I've also seen them in those port-o-coolers too... Anybody know of anything else these are used for?

        • Sharper Image used to sell a neck cooling thing that used peltier coolers, but then they changed it to a water evaporator design. Battery life probably sucked on the original.
    • I've actually often wondered what it would take to give a synthetic sense of touch to something. I'm guessing this "peltier junction" must be the best option for temperature since that's what their using? What else would you need, and how would you accomplish it? You would need the ability to feel whether or not something is hard or soft, whether or not it is rough or smooth, and that's really about it? Could both smoothness and hardness be deteched by the same sensors? If anyone knows please's f
      • Well, in this article, it says that the nerves from the guy's hand were reattached into his chest, attached to a pneumatic plunger that would push on the nerves when his replacement hand was pushed on; that would give him the sense of touch/pressure, though I doubt it has the resolution for something like surface texture. I'm assuming in this case (it's how it's done elsewhere in prosthetics) that there are also peltier junctions touching the nerves to provide the hot/cold sensation. In the past, the peltie
        • Well, I not only wonder about it in the sense of prosthetic replacements, but what about for a full out robot? Or I guess more in my field, what about in a virtual world on an AI creature...

          On the topic of heat/cold again...couldn't they put a bunch of tiny thermometors (sp?) embedded in a synthetic skin and then have a chip give the brain the appropriate sensations based on that data?
          • That's essentially what they're doing here. They're using temperature-sensors in the fingers of the robotic hand, and then using peltier junctions directly connected to the nerve endings from the old hand that relay that temperature to the brain.

            It'd be nice if we had direct interfaces into the brain, but we don't yet.

    • These work using a Peltier junction. For those not "in-the-know", Peltier junctions are basically chunks of metal that push heat to one side when you run current through them one way, and the other side when you run current through them the other way.

      Umm - not exactly. What you are describing is commonly known as a TEC, or "Thermoelectric Cooler" (and also known as a Peltier cooler []). They are not composed of a single Peltier junction, but rather a large multitude of such junctions in what is basically a se

      • Uh, no... I was describing a peltier junction, as in one single solitary junction. A peltier junction is a chunk of metal (I simplified, hence my use of the word "basically", it's actually a chunk of _two_ metals, excuse me) that pushes heat to one side or another depending on which way you shove current through them... Which is also exactly the way you described them, and exactly what I described... I'm missing the part where I was wrong.

  • When will this guy [] be able to get some feeling back with the use of a prosthetic device.
    • by CyricZ ( 887944 )
      Your link is broken. But I suspect something happened to his penis. Could you elaborate? How was it cut off? Did some machinery in a shop explode and tear his penis off? Or did a trout eat it?
    • Re:Yes but... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by koreaman ( 835838 )
      Supposedly they found his penis and put it back on. This according to the article you linked. I've heard of not R'ing TFA, but you should at least R your OWN TFA.
      • Where did they find his penis? And what caused it to go missing in the first place? Did they reattach his actual penis, or was it a prosthetic binary-temperature device like the one described in this topic's article?
      • Oops, you're right. I stopped reading after "it was flushed down the toilet."

        I'm not sure I would want mine reattached if that happened to it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:30PM (#12892251)
    Would the user be able to sense that his arm is in liquid-hot MAAGMAAA before it melted?
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:31PM (#12892264) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of the old joke about the voice-actuated artificial arm.

    They finally attach one to an armless human patient and it goes like this.

    The guy says, "Arm, scratch my nose". And the arm does it.

    "Amazing!", says the guy.

    "Arm, sign my name." The arm does it.

    This continues for quite a while. Finally when the guy's alone.
    He says, "Arm, take off my pants." The arm complies.

    He looks at the arm, and then at his penis and says, "OK arm, jerk it off!"
  • by justforaday ( 560408 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:31PM (#12892266)
    So far it's only cost about $100,000, which is far cheaper than the $6,000,000 that was originally estimated. Maybe we'll get a little closer to that price once another arm is added, and some legs and a head and body...
  • OOoooh (Score:4, Funny)

    by TCaptain ( 115352 ) <slashdot.20.tcap ... minus pa> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:31PM (#12892271)
    "We can rebuild him. We have the technology.
    We have the capability to make the world's first Bionic man.
    Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before.
    Better . . . stronger . . . faster."
  • by UltimateWager ( 893855 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:32PM (#12892285)
    The article describes being able to feel different levels of pressure in addition to different temperatures. It sounds like an impressive level of feedback.

    Anybody want to take bets on how long it takes for a Linux dist. to be built for it?

  • by pestilence669 ( 823950 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:32PM (#12892290)
    I keep wondering if advances in prothetics will slow research into regrowing limbs. Once the replacement becomes better than the real thing, will people trade in their real arms for fake ones?
    • Why on earth would anyone want to trade in a real arm for a robotic one? Why not just have 3 arms?
      • Skeletal reconstruction associated with a third arm, not to mention the control issues (is it even possible?) would make replacement far more likely than augmentation.
      • That'd damage your jacket
      • And an extra head, with an AMD chip for crunching numbers like an autistic savant.
      • Why on earth would anyone want to trade in a real arm for a robotic one? Why not just have 3 arms?

        Three arms wouldn't look appealing on a human body, for one.

        Ideally, I'd like to be able to get organic replacement parts for my body as I grow older. If they aren't available by then, I wouldn't mind robotic ones, assuming they were at least as good as what they were replacing.

        Robotic arms - or better yet, a full body, General Grievous-style - would be really useful in a lot of ways. You could race motorcy
        • Masamune Shirow, the Sci-Fi author of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell says that removing organs will decrease brain activity. Replacing not only limbs but also organs or your whole torso might make you a mouth breathing idiot.

          His characters don't have that problem but he's writing Sci-Fi.

          He also said that total body cyborgification is better if you want superhuman strenght because a super strong arm is no good if lifting something heavy will just rip it off it's fleshy attachements.
        • I would love to have a hand on my forehead. I have tried to convince my girlfriend that this would, in fact be wicked cool (even more so than my idea for over-and-under double barreled penises) but she doesn't seem to get it.

          Think about it--sipping coffee, smoking a cigarette, keeping your sunglases from slipping off your forehead, reading maps while driving, the possibilities are endless.

          As for "wouldn't look appealing"? Well, if someone ever criticized my third forehead hand, I'd lean in real close, l
    • Some people, yes. Some people, no.

      It probably won't take us long to make an arm that in some ways exceeds the capabilities of real arms. Your first thought is strength, but a strong arm requires a strong body to support it. But you might embed other things in it that Nature hasn't seen fit to provide us, or at least have an arm that is strong without having to be exercised.

      But it will likely be a while before we have an arm that is a uniform improvement over our real arms. Healing, for instance, is a real
      • Healing is not nearly so nice a feature as complete repair.
        • It depends on the situation.

          If I live in a city, and I'm willing to bet my arms that society will not collapse so far that I can't get my arms fixed, it may be a good tradeoff.

          On the other hand, if for some reason I will not or can not depend on a technological society to back me up indefinately, I may choose to keep my conventional arms, which will, most likely, continue working effectively indefinitely, until the rest of me is dead. (There are several caveats in that "most likely".)

          A lot of people have
    • Yeah, but the early models will be hell on your essence. Also - while we're talking about burning essence - why bothering with bioware if you can just buy a natural-looking cyberlimb and hide, say, a shotgun in it? Versatility is what keeps you running, chummer.
    • Once the replacement becomes better than the real thing

      Somehow I don't see that happening any time soon.

  • Feeling hot and cold is one, but how about feeling a woman? I think a guy would be in a lot more pain if she rips it off and beat him to death with it.
  • They're making progress in this ares, but still have a long way to go. I wonder how long it will take for the researchers to develop some kind of motor system that is lightweight and has enough tourque to more accurately mimic normal human movements.

    This may also advance the general robotics fields too (I would love to have a robot to fetch food and clean).

  • by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#12892364) Homepage
    Masturbating without a sense of touch is way better though, it doesn't feel like you're doing it... Not that I'd know! :P
  • by Formica ( 775485 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:37PM (#12892365)
    Here's an article with a little more details on the technical end:

    Rewired, amputee lifts arm with mind []

  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday June 23, 2005 @02:38PM (#12892384) Homepage Journal
    Sullivan's prosthesis has a computer in the forearm that is wired to a mechanical hand and to a "plunger" device on his chest. The hand sends signals up the wires to the plunger, which pushes the skin. That stimulates the nerves in his chest to transmit sensations to the brain as if the nerves were still connected to his real hand.
    On Wednesday, when Kuiken touched a spot on Sullivan's chest, Sullivan said: "Oh, that's right between the finger and thumb on the back side of the hand."
    If Kuiken touches one of Sullivan's prosthetic fingers, Sullivan can feel it and say which finger it is.

    Wow. I just know he is glad he can still play the "pull my finger" game with his grandkids.

    • It most likely runs the embedded vxWorks operating system. Linux would probably be far too featureful for a system like this. While Linux is better for larger embedded systems, like PDAs, DVD players, and so on, extremely small systems like this can very often have literally no extra overhead. That is why a very stripped down, minimal system like vxWorks is used.
  • KRYTEN: Okay, now let's recap: the limb is connected to neurons which run up to the left hemisphere of your brain, which controls the right side of your body. Now, all you have to do is merely command the arm to do something, and it obeys. Now, let's practice. Right, concentrate, sir. I want you to think: "arm - pick up the ball".

    LISTER: Okay.

    KRYTEN: Now just think: "I will pick up the ball"

    LISTER: I will pick up the ball.

    KRYTEN: That's right, good, now, concentrate.

    LISTER: *I will pick up th

  • Two way communication with prosthetic devices allows man who lost both arms in an accident to feel hot and cold, to sense objects and to actually move the prosthetic device to pick things up and put them down.

    But will it let him to type in his login and password so he can read the story about himself?

    Here's the story [] at Yahoo.

  • Two way communication with the prosthetic is a huge breakthrough! Glad to see this is becoming possible.

    Without this kind of feedback, control becomes...very difficult. For example, think of the cruise control in a car. You can make a decent one with a pair of opamps. The (oversimplified) way it works is that it takes the speed you're going and finds the difference between that and the speed you'd like to be going and uses that difference to work out how much to push in your accelerator.

    Now try to w

  • Where is the threshold? At what point does hot, turn to ouch? You could feel hot, but would you feel burning? Would your brain realize that the heat is not doing any damage?
    • maybe there's a sensitivity setting
      or pehaps the feeling isn't exactly like that of "real" hot or cold, and you could train yourself to get past the initial reflex

      (what? RTFA? i don't wanna...)
  • Usage stats (Score:4, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @03:06PM (#12892710)
    "For some reason his right arm is showing more wear than the left," said Dr. Todd Kuiken. "Especially around the fingers and palm. We're not sure what's up with that."
  • my dad has lost one arm and the use of another arm in a hay baler. while i am always excited to see this kind of technology advancing, it is obviously aways away from practical use for a farmer. my dad has recently expressed alot of interest in using a computer, does anyone know anything that would make the computing experience easier for someone with no mobility in limbs?
    • There's a fair amount of stuff that can be voice-activated these days (the Mac I'm writing this on has a lot on it by default) so I imagine that depending on what he wanted to do on the computer, he might be able to go that route. I've also seen foot pedal input devices, although I imagine that those are really limited. I haven't actually used any of these things, but that might give you a start.
    • Try voice recognition.

      Or just put a pencil in his mouth and let him type everything in with the pencil.
  • i want a lazer cannon built into my arm! and if it can't be one unit, i at least want to the ability to switch between hand and cannon.

    i've always said that if i had to get a prosthetic arm, i'd rather get one that functions well with a cool metalic sci-fi look, than one that just looks realistic but didn't do much
  • Trebek: No one knows! No one can figure out if the hot tea is hot or cold?
    Sullivan: Can I touch the iced tea
    Trebek: NO! ITS HOT TEA!
    Sullivan: Then I have no idea
  • ... when in a story like this, that really SHOULD be touching and make you feel excited about human progress, 95% of the (high rated) comments are the smart-ass remarks from cynical assholes and masturbation jokes. Way to go, guys!
  • Ok, not to be a stickler, but I saw this technology almost a decade ago on an old PBS documentary.

    Maybe it's cool and all, but the research and everything is at least 2 decades old!

    Yo Grark
  • This is a great development for amputees. It's a very clever "cheat", as someone in the article said.

    What I'd love to see would be a prosthesis with a direct neural link to the control computer; no need for electomechanical contrivances for sensation, and high dexterity.

    Still sounds like Sci-Fi, but a little less so now. I wonder what the issues are with that kind of technology that's keeping it back?

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI