A scientists team has developed what is believed to be the first artificial hand that has feeling.
The device, called 'SmartHand,' resembles - in function, sensitivity and appearance - a real hand.
The prosthetic hand is a new invention from Tel Aviv University researchers.
Yosi Shacham-Diamand of TAU's Department of Engineering, along with a team of European Union scientists, successfully wired the state-of-the-art artificial hand to existing nerve endings in the stump of a severed arm.
Robin af Ekenstam of Sweden, the project's first human subject, has not only been able to complete extremely complicated tasks like eating and writing, he reports he is also able to "feel" his fingers once again.
In short, Shacham-Diamand and his team have seamlessly rewired Ekenstam's mind to his SmartHand.
Shacham-Diamand's contribution to the project, on which TAU collaborated with Sweden's Lund University, is the interface between the body's nerves and the device's electronics.
"Perfectly good nerve endings remain at the stem of a severed limb. Our team is building the interface between the device and the nerves in the arm, connecting cognitive neuroscience with state-of-the-art information technologies," the researcher said.
"Our challenge was to make an electrode that was not only flexible, but could be implanted in the human body and function properly for at least 20 years," Shacham-Diamand said.
The artificial SmartHand will belong to Ekenstam, the test subject, as long as he wishes.
"After only a few training sessions, he is operating the artificial hand as though it's his own. We've built in tactile sensors too, so the information transfer goes two ways. These allow Ekenstam to do difficult tasks like eating and writing," Shacham-Diamand said.