Robotic Body Parts That Increase Motor Skills Beyond Current Biological Limitations

Scientists test a third thumb designed to increase range of motion, enhance grasping capability and expand the carrying capacity of the hand.

Ever have too much to carry and wish you had an extra hand? Well, how about an extra thumb instead?

Researchers are testing a controllable prosthetic thumb designed to increase our motor capabilities beyond current biological limitations.

It’s a new technology called motor augmentation and includes exoskeletons and other robotic body parts. The aim is to improve productivity for healthy adults and help those with disabilities interact with their environment.

Nearly 600 people from three to 96 years old tested the thumb to see how quickly they could complete a series of tasks. The device is placed on the opposite side of the palm and is controlled by pressure sensors placed under each big toe or foot.

98% of participants were able to successfully grasp and carry objects using the third thumb during the first minute, according to the results.

Overall, older and younger adults performed similarly, but declines were noted in seniors with increasing age. Kids under 10 also had a harder time adjusting. 

One author says, “Technology is changing our very definition of what it means to be human, with machines increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives, and even our minds and bodies.”

Source: Science Robotics

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