Scientists Invent a Robotic Arm That Can Feel

Here’s how researchers are rewiring the sense of touch in a paralyzed man.

One man, one robotic arm, dozens of electrodes—these are the elements of a breakthrough experiment that’s restoring the sense of touch to a paralyzed man.

Scientists have long known that the brain retains the sense of an amputated or paralyzed limb. “The brain continues to have the capacity to do what it always did,” says bioengineer Robert Gaunt. “Even after injury.” That’s why researchers have recently been able to help people control robotic limbs with their minds.

Gaunt and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center aim to go even further. They’re experimenting with ways to make a robotic limb “embodied,” as Gaunt puts it—to make it actually feel like a part of the body and not just a tool.

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