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Biotech Robotics

Man Controls Cybernetic Hand With Thoughts 81

MaryBethP writes "Scientists in Italy announced Wednesday that Pierpaolo Petruzziello, a 26-year-old Italian who had lost his left forearm in a car accident, was successfully linked to an artificial limb that was controlled by electrodes implanted in his arm and connected to the median and ulnar nerves. He has learned to control the artificial limb with his mind. According to CNet, Petruzziello says he could feel sensations in it, as if the lost arm had grown back again. The BBC has a brief video showing the arm in operation."
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Man Controls Cybernetic Hand With Thoughts

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  • bring on the cyborgs!!!!

  • by DrMrLordX ( 559371 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:14AM (#30333258)
    At least we now know the identity of Dr. Claw [] and why he was able to leave his arm with a bomb in an armchair like in the intro. But will Gadget ever figure it out? Probably not.
  • by Vyse of Arcadia ( 1220278 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:20AM (#30333270)
    "Scientists go out on limb and declare robot hand a success"

    C'mon, that's terrible even by my standards!
    • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:29AM (#30333300) Homepage

      You have to hand it to them though, I think they really pulled it off!

      • No, you misunderstand. They ATTACHED it!
        • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

          Despite your intended humor, the video makes it look like they have not actually attached it. Which does not seem like that big a surprises to me, since this limb would be so much heaver than a real hand that they would need to equip what remains of his arm with a bio-assist sleeve to allow him to use it in a way that resembles normal. Plus in order to be able to use this new arm for any signficiant portion of time, he would need to carry around an ungodly amount of additional weight in batteries.

          I mean thi

          • Good point about the batteries. If I was in charge of this research project, we would develop a fuel cell to generate electricity directly from ATP. Just route some blood through it. Now THAT would be awesome.
  • Yes, yes, yes! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward


    So anyhow, sweet. Amazed at the sensations part just as much if not more than the mental control. How sure can we be it's not just something like phantom limb syndrome? I assume they've done the whole behind a curtain "am I touching your hand" type dealie?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, they didn't give us any information about tha, nor whether or not there is a feedback system, but let's consider the feasibility: I'm no EE, but wouldn't there be some sort of change in resistance or ... something ... as the motors experienced load? I'm not sure the signal would transmit through relays or whatever they're using, but short of a specifically designed feedback system, is it possible, or likely? The nervous system operates on very low power, I know that much, so is there any sort of signa

      • The nervous system operates on very low power, I know that much, so is there any sort of signal it could get and potentially interpret?

        Why yes, as you stated (and as I believe because a) I'm lazy and b) I couldn't imagine the nervous system using any sort of "high" voltage signal)))/*Close those parens!*/ I would think that a feedback system wouldn't be hard to develop, at least on the hardware side. Making something that can be affected by resistance - say, a hand touching the fake arm - shouldn't be diffi

        • "the hard part is figuring out where to send the signal"

          Send them pretty much anywhere. The brain is very adaptive. Given a few months of use the guy will learn what the different feeelings correspond to. From their his brain will automatically map said feelings. It will quickly become unnoticable. Perhaps slightly different but for the individual they would not care.

          I'm basing this off of many experiments, for example people being given vision through sensations in their tongue... The brain figures out
    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      I think the standard way for evaluating the feedback is the "are you touching yourself" test.
  • Now I can shed this nasty, degrading shell.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is no replacement for brain yet, so your eternal mechanical life will eventually turn into an eternal Alzheimer's.

  • Not there yet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:49AM (#30333368) Homepage Journal

    Looking at the video and articles it seems they haven't integrated the whole thing into an artificial hand attached to his arm. The hand he controls is shown separately from his body. Perhaps the unit is too heavy at the moment.

    So Ratz can't have his russian military seven function force feedback manipulator just yet.

    • Or maybe they're keeping it at a distance and hoping nobody notices that they made him another right hand by accident.

      • I think the hand came before the patient.

        • Damn, a reasonable explanation. That's not nearly so amusing.

        • OT but re your sig which asks why is actually in nz? Well, according to the website:

          Wellington will charm you the moment you set eyes on it. A large part of the city's appeal stems from its natural setting: rugged hills rise above a busy harbour, buildings perch on hillsides, streets wind their way around the coast and into hidden valleys.

          It's a compact city - the concentrated mix of business, the arts, sports, entertainment and café society add to Wellington's vibrancy and appeal.

          What b

          • I doubt it. I live in Melbourne. I was actually in Hobart at the same time as the last one. There were lots of Linux people on the ferry going over. I didn't attend because I was on holiday with my son. I will wait for it to come back to Melbourne and try to con my employer into sending me.

            I am sure Wellington is a nice place for a conference but it should be called

            • I live in Melbourne too! I don't see why an Aussie conference can't be held in Aotearoa though? It's not like it's a long way ... closer than Perth I think. What confused me was the name of the conference: I first thought it was a domain name, but of course it's not. :-)

    • Re:Not there yet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jartan ( 219704 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:48AM (#30334524)

      Sounds like the purpose of the test was to test the actual electrode interface and how complex the hand motions could get with it. The duration the electrodes stayed in his arm is the important part. With this test it seems complex cybernetic limbs are basically a done deal. The question is whether or not they can actually hook them up long term without serious rejection problems.

      • Sounds like the purpose of the test was to test the actual electrode interface and how complex the hand motions could get with it. The duration the electrodes stayed in his arm is the important part. With this test it seems complex cybernetic limbs are basically a done deal. The question is whether or not they can actually hook them up long term without serious rejection problems.

        Makes me wonder if you could build an implanted sensor more like a cochlear implant. No direct electrical connection with the outside. Data and power are transferred both ways by induction.

  • by monkeySauce ( 562927 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:51AM (#30333376) Journal
    Like, will it still count as masturbation if he uses the cybernetic hand?

    And, can they give you control without feeling sensation? Because that would totally feel like somebody else's hand...
  • Not to diminish the achievement, but haven't they built him a redundant right hand?

  • I know the rest of you will post the childish big put downs, like the fact you have to carry a laboratory everywhere with you, or wait for the first legal case over accidental removal of testes at the toilet or the wife jokes of "at last he can help with the washing up" so I will post the sobering comments that we all have to start somewhere .. and get 3 good punches in at the same time :-)
  • Optional extras (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geminii ( 954348 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:03AM (#30333414)

    Could be interesting to outfit it with PDA/smartphone/net capabilities linked to a couple of extra feedback wires. You'd be able to develop electronic senses such as orientation, absolute location, driving directions to a destination, knowing when someone had sent you an email, and the direction and distance of practically anything with a Whitepages/Yellowpages entry.

    For bonus points, equip your car with a GPS+intertial tracker and cellphone, and you'll be able to find it anywhere on the planet to within a couple of dozen feet. Add in a radio transmitter which can pick up and replicate signals from things like car keys, and you'll be able to find it within that dozen feet, too.

    I'm thinking - what about being able to put the hand into virtual mode, so that wrist and finger gestures aren't expressed by the mechanical hardware but are instead used as input to an interface linked to a bunch of macros for the electronics? Add an IR transmitter/recorder, point at the TV, go virtual, and sign the macro for switching on, calling up your favorite channel, and turning up the volume. Or with an IRDA channel, be able to send macro signals to your PC to do whatever you want. Heck, go the whole hog and install WiFi, Bluetooth, a USB port, an acoustic coupler... you'd have the most connected hand on the planet!

    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      you mean [] ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dekker3D ( 989692 )
      well, a simple compass would be easy: you just wire the feedback to the nerve to how close you point your arm to the north. eventually, you'll be able to feel the other directions simply by familiarity with those specific amounts of feeling.
      • well, a simple compass would be easy: you just wire the feedback to the nerve to how close you point your arm to the north.

        [SIGH] A compass points to the local magnetic north (or south), not to "north" in any other sense.
        OK, it may seem trivial to some people, but there's about 5 degrees difference here, and 7 degrees of difference at my last work site. And that site, the magnetic variation changed by nearly 3 degrees across the site, due to the presence of magnetic rock intrusions nearby which hardened un

        • i wasn't about the compass being simple, but the implementation. the compass could be gps-driven for all i care. besides, you don't want to rely on something like this for precision jobs unless you can somehow get the data digitally instead of the analogue way i described.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      If you start adding lots of functionality you would have to get some serious security, otherwise you might find that people start controlling your hand, or giving you bursts of pain.
  • by Admiral Ag ( 829695 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:14AM (#30333452)

    More proof that God synchronizes mental and physical events. Substance dualists rejoice! ;) []

  • What's to say that you need to lose a hand in order to have this system implanted?

    Imagine the remote control possibilities: Tele-Surgery and both Macro and Micro Waldoes in general (ever wondered what that water molecule "feels" like ?).
  • From the BBC video, it looks like he is controlling a right hand, but it appears that his left arm is the one he lost.
    I wonder if this makes it harder to control (like his hand is back to front), and whether he will have trouble adjusting to a prosthetic left arm later on.
    • It appears that he controls it without watching... So my guess is that he is in fact imagining left hand movements. After all that is what his neural system is trained to do. In order to get it right later they just need to wire him up correctly.
  • When they do this with feets, they have come fare
  • I mean... if someone were to destroy this hand for some reason, would they be sued for damaging his personal property, or for bodily harm?
    And what then of the destruction of a "personal" computer, cell phone and/or other gadget (which some can argue are more useful than 1 hand or 1 foot)?

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@got . n et> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @08:02AM (#30334208) Journal

    I'm still waiting for the newspaper headlines reporting a nose-picking fatality caused by a short in the sensing circuits!!!

  • after Dean Kamen's "Luke Arm" project: []
  • Should the governing bodies of modern sports begin regulating performance enhancing prosthetics? Imagine what this guy could do in a robot dance-off.

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.