adamdanyal

Adam Danyal
Tech Influencer with 2.7+ Million Followers
For all enquiries use [email protected]
Discovering tech and innovative products!
Click on an item to reveal the link!

adamdanyal

Adam Danyal
Entrepreneur
For all enquiries use [email protected]
Exploring the web for useful products!
Click on an item to reveal the link!

This 3D-Printed Robotic ‘Third Thumb’ Could Augment Our Biological Design and Abilities

Imagine if you had an extra digit…A surgeon could perform without the need of an assistant, a factory worker could work more efficiently, a waiter could carry extra wine glasses, and a parent could scoop up kids’ toys faster. The possibilities are endless!

That’s why Designer and Engineer Dani Clode decided to develop a 3D-printed robotic thumb called the Third Thumb. Initially, the device was part of her graduate project at the Royal College of Art, and was “more a novelty than a prototype, exploring futurist ideas surrounding body augmentation.” However, when a team of neuroscientists working at The Plasticity Lab at University College London got wind of it, they wanted to team up with Clode to further explore “how an extra digit could augment our biological design and abilities.”

This innovative invention that “extends the natural capabilities of the biological hand” can serve many functions. It could serve as a recovery tool for partial motor function in the aftermath of a stroke, or to help an amputee, the aging population, or someone born with a hand difference. It could also aid in the recovery process of someone who has broken an arm, and therefore it would not impact the person’s profession.https://youtu.be/HGpFdrUUzhc

The integration of an extra digit is non-invasive meaning that there is no surgical intervention. The Third Thumb is controlled using pressure sensors underneath a person’s big toes. It’s worn on the side of the hand opposite the actual thumb, next to the little finger.

Researchers conducted trials where 20 subjects spent five days training in the lab to use the Third Thumb. (They were compared to an additional group of 10 control participants who wore a static version of the thumb during the same training.) The 20 subjects were also encouraged to take the device home and use it between 2-6 hours a day. They carried out dexterous tasks, such as building a tower of blocks with one hand while simultaneously doing math problems, or while blindfolded. They found that with an extra digit, the volunteers could multitask, carry more objects than normal, hold and open a bottle of soda with just one hand, and even master the guitar!

The subjects had their brains scanned using functional MRIs pre- and post-training, without the Third Thumb, and while moving their fingers individually. Researchers found “subtle but significant changes” within the brain’s sensorimotor cortex in the hand that was augmented with the thumb, but not the other hand. The brain activity pattern corresponding to each individual finger became less distinct. Yet a week later after use, the subjects’ fMRIs showed that changes in their brain’s hand area had subsided. Therefore, revealing that these changes in the brain might not be long-term.

While more research needs to be done, one major question remains: “How do you send motor commands to control an extra body part, without impairing your own body and without taking up too much cognitive load?”

Join my 1909 subscribers and
get unmissable tech in your inbox...

We respect your privacy.
Copyright © 2021 Adam Danyal.  All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy - This blog does not collect personal information except that which is freely shared publicly.
Disclosure - As an affiliate I may earn from qualifying purchases.