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The first dexterous and sentient hand prosthesis has been successfully implanted (detop-project.eu)
135 points by stonewhite 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

I'm a bit uneasy about the fact that they are punching through skin. This always bears a big risk of infections as the skin is the #1 protection from bacteria. Even prosthetics fully under the skin have this risk, and septic shock is a possibly lethal threat. And we humans love to put our hands to various sometimes more, sometimes less, dirty places.

For your awareness, this risk has largely been observed and researched in the field of dental implants. I'd suspect this research would be extended and applied here with this concept.

My assumption is that the exposed components are not just made from titanium (biocompatibility) but are also textured in such a way that soft tissue can enforce a seal, but I'm speculating because I'm not finding the necessary documentation on it. Someone more informed may be able to chime in.

Edit: This is the closest starting point I've found for your continued reading.


A year or two ago I investigated what the state of the art was for metal grafted onto bone (for example to mount prosthetics) and the conclusion was "it often works or only gets a little infected. Sometimes it gets badly infected, not much we can do about that", but that was the actual practice.


I don't think it's unfair to ask how a novel approach resolved an extremely complicated problem with no universal solution currently known to man.

Me neither.

Do you think the people involve care about your unease? Or do you think the lady is willing to risk infection to have a working hand?

I bet the doctors have thought an awful lot about the balance between the risks and benefits.

How appropriate is the term "sentient" here, given that the hand is still controlled by the brain of the human it is attached to?

The technical meaning of "sentient" is "capable of feeling". It's opposed to "sapient", which means capable of thinking.

It's a reasonable adaptation of the term to have it mean "capable of transmitting touch signals to the wearers nervous system" in the context of prosthetics.

That's an unfortunate accident of technical jargon...

Oh good, I was worried that Andy Weir was a coauthor for a sec:


Wouldn't "sensate" be a better word?


I think sentient in this context means that it gives tactile feedback to the brain. It definitely won't do your math homework for you.

>It definitely won't do your math homework for you.

Hook that prosthesis up to a phone and let's see how far we can get

The video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WQiJPexEDM ) provides a bit clearer explanation of what's going on. They're actually sending signals directly through the percutaneous bone anchors, which is pretty rad in my book. Looks like the hand just snaps on to the anchors and you're ready to go, albeit with years of retraining the nerve endings for the new signals.

I wonder how well you could integrate such prosthetics if you had them from a very young age.

Curious if you could speed up retraining for the prosthetic using biofeedback.

Could you explain what that means to a layperson?

On track to "Deus ex: human revolution" in 2027. Human prosthetics augmentation is a centerpiece of the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oTSX_csbQY .

Now all that's missing is a huge pharma company buying a tech startup for revolutionary prosthetics and selling both prosthetics and drugs like inkjet printers and cartridges.

"In a pioneering surgery, titanium implants were placed in the two forearm bones (radius and ulnar), from which electrodes to nerves and muscle were extended to extract signals to control a robotic hand and to provide tactile sensations."

This seems pretty significant. And, I hate to sound gross but doesn't that technically mean a prosthesis could be attached as an extra instead of a replacement?

This is one of the areas I think is fascinating about prosthesis - once we get to the point where they're essentially connected in to the brain, and can be used as though they were a natural limb, what would happen if say, you raised a child with the ability to control four arms as naturally as two? Or raised them with non-humanoid limbs?

I was once involved in a DARPA study that looked at this.

My takeaway: we have no idea whether the neurocontrol parts of the brain are this plastic. It might work great; it might totally fail. Nobody knows yet.

How many extra arms did they give you? Did you get to keep them?

Yes, two. They’re in my lab;)

Another really cool application would be the ability to control extremities that aren't part of your body. Using the internet, you could deliver whole-body experiences to robotic shells thousands of km away from your actual body or in virtual environments. The indian concept of avatars, also part of christian religion, would become scientific reality.

There's a startup, I believe it's in Japan, that is working on this. Basically you'd have generic looking prosthetic humans at popular tourist locations, and you could pay to rent them for a set amount of time, remotely controlling them with sensors attached to your body, and seeing through their eyes with a VR helmet.

The pen & paper RPG eclipse phase is going one step further there. Singularity AI's are ... well replicating and harvesting on earth with little consequence for the biological implications. As such, humans are uploading their minds to escape shuttles, since you can fit a million people on a storage raid the size of a person. And then there's corporations providing cheap robotic bodies... It's an amazingly disgusting yet realistic setting.

I personally think that prosthetics and mechanical augmentation will become commonplace in the future. Humans are smart enough to create tools that allow us to surive where we normally couldn't, I don't see why we wouldn't eventaully get to a point where we decide that we can create better bodies for ourselves, instead of waiting for evolution to eventually work its magic.

Where do you attach a third arm?

How about wirelessly controlled?

Probably on your back, and have it lay flat when not in use. That way you could carry things in front of you, and use the third arm to carry additional stuff as a counterbalance.

And never ever be able to seat on a standard chair or travel in a car? Probably not.

I would think about how to carry on common tasks with common items such as seating, sleeping, wearing clothes, etc. Perhaps 4 arms would be better than 3 given our symmetry but they're going to force the owner to use so many specially built stuff. I guess two are going to be optimal for a while.

Or attach the extra arms to a hexoscheleton and wear it only when needed.

The problem is integrating it into the existing skeleton. Our arms are not just glued to the body, they integrate with the shoulder.

I hope I live to see the day I can read a news article about black market cybernetic chop shops.

What if i dont need a prothesis replacement arm, but i want and additional third or fourth arm wearable in the form of a “backpack with arms”

How can i get one, and how expensive (medically and financially) will my additional sets of arms be?

Try looking for "third thumb". A DIY project where a guy got input from a toe to control a motorized second "thumb" on a hand. AFAIK no one ever made a project of it ... but ones feet are a vastly under utilized resource and could be re purposed quite readily. Eg why not control a virtual twiddler? Or indeed a "hand prosthetic".

I think a foot interface would be awesome for bulk operations like scrolling/panning/zooming. Think of a trackball but like a medicine ball that is heavy and carries some momentum. Pedals too i guess, but i like the big heavy ball idea. Probably be great for your feet too.

Probably not with this tech. This tech is integrating with your nerves and slowly training it to interpret signals from your brain, and I think vice versa. That won’t ever apply to casually worn appendages.

So what could be done? Probably an indirect method would work better. Use existing motor controls (maybe finger gestures?) and an eye tracker to direct your doctor octopus arms (for which power and weight will be primary concerns).

We won’t get sensory feedback properly, but you might imagine having a single external device which channels some sort of sensory trick to 80/20 it.

When will this arrive? Wearable arms probably don’t have a market, but the control scheme and sensory feedback are going to be top of mind for VR / AR hardware devs I would think

I believe brain is fully capable to adapt to a one more hand or two. Maybe even sentient hands. All you need is to place electrodes into brain itself. Or maybe somewhere in a brainstem, I'm not an expert in this things, but I think it is possible.

It would be nice, I would be able to type on keyboard and drink tea with cookies without stopping. But there is mouse here... So I need three additional arms. Not like mine, with less strength but with thinnier fingers and a finer precision. If it possible then without a tremor. And an eye on each palm, for I could to see things really closely.

We can put electrodes in the brain to do this, but they move around too much and will eventually destroy the brain tissue.

The movement isn’t the issue, they’re well secured. The problem is that the electrodes are slowly attacked by immune responses and over time the tissue around it becomes sclerotic, and the electrodes stop working. Various potential solutions are being explored, such as growing specialized neurons with extremely long axons to use as the final interface. It’s still an unsolved problem through.

I wonder whether the immune system would learn that the electrode is not something to attack if you implant it prenatally, or shortly after birth.

I don’t know if the immune system could be trained that way, but it’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately one issue I can think of is that the same period you describe is both formative for the immune system (good for our purposes) and also the period of rapid growth of the brain (not so good). Even if the immune system could be trained during that time, the electrodes would still move relative to their intended targets.

There’s also the issue a lot of these surgeries involve feedback from a conscious patient, and that’s obviously impossible with a newborn.

So there is an /r/writingPrompts if ive ever heard one: “prenatal cyber implants augmented your abilities - but have stunted your Humanity in what ways?”

There was a TED talk about it. The team created a vest giving blind people a tactile feedback to their back. Another use case was to give people additional "senses" for them to be able to control some devices - drone, or maybe arms if you will. It was back in 2015, I am not sure what the progress is now. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_eagleman_can_we_create_new_s...

> How can i get one

Patience and/or time travel

> how expensive (medically and financially) will my additional sets of arms be?

You may find your preexisting thoughts and desires overruled by the machine's, which mostly consist of a burning desire to kill Spider-Man.

You might be interested in https://youtu.be/sKjAp0iZ7dc

Is there no video of it use?

Very ambitious use of the word "sentient".... hubris much?

Sentient means capable of feeling.

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