Researchers used individual fingertips fitted with stretchable tactile sensors with liquid metal. (Credit: Alex Dolce)

Researchers created a more natural feeling prosthetic hand interface by incorporating stretchable tactile sensors using liquid metal on the fingertips of a prosthetic hand. Encapsulated within silicone-based elastomers, this technology offers high conductivity, compliance, flexibility, and stretchability. This hierarchical multi-finger tactile sensation integration could provide a higher level of intelligence for artificial hands.

Individual fingertips on the prosthesis were used to distinguish between different speeds of a sliding motion along different textured surfaces. The four different textures had one variable parameter: the distance between the ridges. For each of 10 surfaces, 20 trials were collected to test the ability of machine learning algorithms to distinguish between the 10 different complex surfaces comprised of randomly generated permutations of four different textures.

Results showed that the integration of tactile information from liquid metal sensors on four prosthetic hand fingertips simultaneously distinguished between complex, multi-textured surfaces. The algorithms distinguished between all the speeds with each finger with high accuracy. This new technology could improve the control of prosthetic hands and provide haptic feedback for amputees to reconnect a previously severed sense of touch.

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