Human Hand Controlled by Cyborg Attachment
Technology has found a new way to get to Carnegie Hall.
CREDIT: University of Tokyo
Since early man banged out the first sharp rock, our hands have served as humanity's primary means for controlling technology. Thanks to some robotics researchers in Japan, it seems the tables have turned. By attaching electrodes and a computer to precise points on the wrist, scientists at the University of Tokyo have crafted a device that controls a human hand well enough for the hand's owner to play an instrument far better than their natural skill level would otherwise allow.
Eerily named "PossessedHand," the project began as a way to teach people how to play a Japanese harp called the koto. Electrodes attach to muscles in the arm, and force those muscles to flex. The PossessedHand doesn't produce enough force to totally control the hand, but instead prods the user to make the correct finger motion needed to play the koto.
The PossessedHand isn't the first device of this kind, but it is the most precise. Physical therapists already use cruder non-invasive electrodes for general muscle stimulation, but none of the devices currently in use can produce the coordinated fine motor work needed to play an instrument.
As one would expect, test subjects were not altogether thrilled with abdicating control of their hands to a machine, according to New Scientist. However, once that initial fear of robot control subsides, the PossessedHand could find use in a number of muscle-learning situations. Obviously, the device could teach people how to play an instrument, but it could also speed up physical therapy and rehab, helping people who have sustained debilitating injuries relearn how to use their altered bodies.