The first bionic hand that can actually help the wearer to feel things will be used on a patient within the year.
The patient is an unnamed man in his 20s living in Rome who lost the lower part of his arm following an accident, said Silvestro Micera of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
The wiring of this hand will connect to the nervous system, which also works on the principal of electrical signals. The hand will be directly connected by using electrodes clamped to the two major nerves in the forearm.
The difference between this and other bionic hands, is that it cannot only grab objects when the patient's brain tell is to, but it has sensors for temperature that could send signals to the brain about what temperatures objects are.
In 2009, a portable model of the hand was attached to Pierpaolo Petruzziello, who lost half his arm in a car accident. He was able to move the bionic hand's fingers, make a fist and hold objects. He said that he could feel the sensation of needles pricked into the hand's palm.
However, this earlier version of the hand had only two sensor areas and the newest prototype will send sensory signals back from all the fingertips, as well as the palm and the wrists to give a near life-like feeling in the limb, Dr. Micera said.
Researchers wasn't the patient to wear the new mechanical hand for a month and see how his control and sensory perception are. And if the test goes well, they hope to have it in production in two ears.
Photos of the hand can be found here.