Do you ever need someone to help you with tasks that require extra hands? How about a robotic third inch? In London, researchers asked volunteers to wear a motorized device that acts as a sixth finger.
The results, published in Science Robotics magazine, show that participants who tested the third thumb found it easier to perform difficult tasks with just one hand. Also, her brain had quickly adapted to this new ability.
An award-winning project
This robotic third thumb was created by designer Dani Clode and a team of neuroscientists led by Professor Tamar Makin of University College London (UCL). 3D printable, easy to customize and wear on the side opposite the user’s thumb near the little finger.
In fact, the Third Thumb was part of a Royal College of Art award-winning project to change the way people think about limbs. According to Big Think, Professor Makin’s team was tasked with studying how the brain could adapt to the additional finger.
The brain adapts at breakneck speed. Photo credit: University College London
To do this, the researchers recruited 20 volunteers. They were trained in how to use the device, after which everyone tested the robot’s thumb for five days. The challenge was to use the extended hand to perform tasks such as picking up various objects or holding wine glasses.
And that would be very practical! Photo credit: University College London
The scientists also asked participants to take the device home so that they can continue training in real-life scenarios. In total, the volunteers wore their third thumb for two to six hours a day. In addition, a control group of 10 people wearing a non-functional version of the robot thumb was created to compare the results.
Users quickly got used to it
Not only did the participants use the artificial finger with great ease, their brains also quickly got used to it. Users also claimed that more and more they felt that that extra inch was part of their body.
An award-winning concept. Photo credit: University College London
Note that the third thumb is based on a system that, in addition to the artificial finger itself, includes pressure sensors placed on the wearer’s feet under the big toes. These sensors are connected to the robot’s thumb via Bluetooth so that it can be controlled by varying the pressure.
According to experts, this invention could not only restore the lost functions but also expand the capabilities of the human body. Makin and his colleagues even believe that enlarging the body could become a common practice in the future. “Our study shows that people can quickly learn to control an augmentation device and use it to their advantage,” said designer Dani Clode, quoted by Metro.