Fabrizio Fidati, a 57-year-old amputee, uses the MiniTouch device with his prosthetic to accurately sort cubes of different temperatures. Image Credit: EPFL Caillet, Video: EPFL

HealthTechnology The World18. February 2024

New Sensors Allow Amputees to Feel the Heat and the Cold

An advancement in prosthetic limbs allows amputees to sense temperature, perhaps allowing for a greater sense of human connection through touch.

“Feeling the temperature variation is a different thing, something important … something beautiful. It does not feel phantom anymore, because your limb is back,” says Francesca Rossi of Italy, an amputee who took part in the 2023 study.

For the first time, fingertip sensors added to a functional artificial limb allowed individuals to sense and respond to temperature as a living hand would. This transformative device, the MiniTouch, was created with affordable electronics, does not require any surgery, and can be fitted to existing prosthetic hands – offering an accessible product for many amputees. The ability for individuals to sense hot and cold variations is not only just an important advancement in the functionality of prosthetic limbs; amputees who participated in the study indicated greater feelings of human connection thanks to temperature sensations. Another prosthetic advancement currently in the works is improving the ability to feel varying textures. Eventually, the distinguishment of texture and temperature will create a prosthetic limb that much more closely resembles its living counterpart.

Smithsonian Magazine

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