If you’re a fan of science fiction films, then you may be familiar with the idea of the robotic hand. They have been used widely in such films as Mad Max: Fury Road, Captain America: Civil War, and is even sported by Luke Skywalker himself in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, with recent dramatic developments in the fields of medical technology, this seemingly far fetched idea is fast becoming a reality.

A team of scientists in Rome have developed the first ever portable bionic hand that also has a sense of artificial touch, and that can be worn outside of a laboratory. Previous to this, the same team had developed a bionic hand that has sensory abilities, but the technology was so large that it was not portable. Now a small rucksack can contain the technology needed for the sensors in the fingers to relay feeling (via the small main computer) to tiny electrodes implanted into the patient’s upper arm.

Although this is still a prototype, the scientists are keen to keep minimising the technology until the sensory bionic hand can be commercialised. This could even be incorporated into the 3D printing technology craze, which is already being used for printing prosthetic limbs. These printed replicas are far less advanced than this recent prototype, however they are advanced enough to be used for complex tasks, such as playing musical instruments.

Students thinking about applying for Medicine may want to think about how the NHS can invest in new and dynamic ways to combat previously irrecoverable medical conditions. Psychology applicants may want to think about how the brain can trick the body into thinking that it has a real limb. Students who may want to study Philosophy should think about the post-humanist line between man and machine.  

Perhaps this type of technology isn’t in a galaxy that far, far away…

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