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DARPA Tech Could Give Artificial Hands Sense of Touch

Veterans with prosthetic hands could soon be able to "feel" objects thanks to a new DARPA program.

Veterans with prosthetic hands could someday regain their sense of touch thanks to a new DARPA initiative. It's called the Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, and the goal is to let amputees "feel" objects with technology that would send signals back and forth between the brain and artificial hand. The government agency is working with eight companies and universities, including Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, to develop the technology. "We hope to streamline the process of validating technologies that can help our military Service members and veterans who have been injured while serving our country," Doug Weber, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. DARPA is giving out simulation software that researchers can use to test their designs. Right now, the idea is to implant electrodes in nerves and muscles, which would wirelessly transmit signals to the prosthetic hand and allow it to move and pick up objects. That same hand would use embedded sensors to send signals back to the brain, giving the patient a sense of touch. DARPA hopes to have an FDA-approved system ready to test in homes within the next four years.



— Keith Wagstaff