A 3D-printed prosthetic hand controlled using a new AI-based approach could significantly lower the cost of bionic limbs for amputees.
Real need: There are approximately 540,000 upper-limb amputees in the United States, but sophisticated “myoelectric” prosthetics, controlled by muscle contractions, are still very expensive. Such devices cost between $25,000 and $75,000 (not including maintenance and repair), and they can be difficult to use because it is hard for software to distinguish between different muscle flexes.
Handy invention: Researchers in Japan came up with a cheaper, smarter myoelectric device. Their five-fingered, 3D-printed hand is controlled using a neural network trained to recognize combined signals—or, as they call them, “muscle synergies.” Details of the bionic hand are published today in the journal Science Robotics.
Nimble-fingered: The team tested their setup on seven people, including one amputee. The participants were able to perform 10 different finger motions with around 90% accuracy. What’s more, the device only needed to be trained on five motions for each finger before they were able to do this. The amputee participant was able to perform tasks including picking up and putting down bottles, and holding a notebook.
Hold on: It isn’t clear how much these technologies might reduce the cost of prosthetics, and there are still significant challenges to overcome, like muscle fatigue and the complications that will inevitably come with the getting the software to recognize a wide variety of real-world movements. Still, it’s a promising approach that might someday change the lives of those who rely on dumb or hugely expensive prosthetic limbs.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora
The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.
Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.
Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.