The Guardian: Human enhancement with robotic body parts is at hand

The Guardian: Human enhancement with robotic body parts is at hand

The Guardian: Human enhancement with robotic body parts is at your fingertips

Illustration photo – Seven-year-old American Faith Lennox with her new robotic hand from a 3D printer.

London – Whether it's looking after children, operating on a patient or cooking Sunday dinner, there are many occasions when an extra pair of hands could be useful. Scientists now say such human enhancement is on the horizon and suggest they could design other robotic body parts to enhance our abilities, The Guardian wrote.

Advertisement'; }

This approach could increase productivity, said Tamar Makin, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. “If you want to have an extra hand while cooking in the kitchen, so you can stir soup and cut vegetables at the same time, you could get the ability to wear and independently control another robotic limb,” said the scientist.

Dani Clode – designer and colleague of Makin's from Cambridge University – has previously created a thumb printed on a 3D printer that can be “added” to any hand.

The extra thumb could be useful, for example, for waiters carrying plates or electrical engineers soldering, Makin said, and other robotic body parts could be designed for specific workplace needs. For example, an extra hand could help a construction worker hammer nails while holding a beam in place.

“We talked to a surgeon who would be very interested in holding a camera while performing shoulder surgery instead of to be held by an assistant,” Clode said. “He'd like to have full control over the tools he's using with both hands, while holding that camera and being able to manipulate it,” she added.

The team says robotic body parts could allow for significantly more control than mere attachment devices because their controls are inspired by natural human mechanisms. “We want something that we can (very) precisely control without having to articulate exactly what we want,” Makin said.

The team's approach, according to Makin, was the idea that add-ons could be used to to build on the existing capabilities of the human body.

“If you're missing a limb, instead of trying to replace it, why don't we extend your undamaged arm to allow you to do more with it,” Makin said. However, the team anticipates that such devices will also be used by people who are not living with a disability.

An important feature of human enhancement devices, according to Clode, is that they do not take away the user's original abilities. “(It's) a layer on the body that can be used with the least impact for the greatest gain,” she said.

The key aspect is that unlike a spade, which is used to enhance our hole-digging abilities, these robotic body parts do not need to be controlled by hands.

For example, the extra thumb on the hand is connected to two motors on the wrist, which are connected to a battery and a single-chip computer on the upper arm. This system is wirelessly connected to microcontrollers placed on the user's shoes or ankles, which are connected to pressure sensors under both big toes. “You squeeze these pressure sensors — and that's what the extra thumb on the hand controls,” Clode said.

But the approach also raises new questions, according to Makin. “We're doing a lot of research right now to see what it does to the nervous system when you start using your toes to become another toe — how much (that) affects your ability to use your toes as thumbs,” she said.< /p>

Some laboratories have focused on the possibility of using electrodes in the brain or spinal cord to control external devices, but Makin believes that there is no ethical justification for such an invasive approach in otherwise healthy people.

When Clode recently conducted research at Britain's Royal Society Summer Exhibition where members of the public could try out an extra thumb, and the results were remarkable. , which means they were already able to move objects according to instructions,” said Makinová. “I can't imagine a brain chip that could do that,” concluded the scientist.