Having an extra thumb or knuckle would be pretty handy (groan), but what about an entire miniature hand on the end of each finger? Sure, we’d put a little more faith in our surgeons to stay steady, but think of the nightmare putting gloves on would be.

Three artists have collaborated to bring those imaginative worlds to life in a project they call "Augmented Hand Series." It uses a camera and a piece of software that lets people visualize, in real-time, their hands as alien limbs, replete with extra fingers, elastic joints, breathing palms, and thumbs on the wrong side.


Conceived more than a decade ago, "Augmented Hands" is a look into how the human brain finds familiarity with its own limbs. Too often, the artists explain in a statement, we take our hands’ versatility for granted, thinking only of how to use them and not directly about them. “Our investigation takes a position of exploration and wonder,” they wrote. “Can real-time alterations of the hand's appearance bring about a new perception of the body as a plastic, variable, unstable medium?”

If by “new perception” they mean creepy and unsettling, then the answer is probably yes. But altered anatomy isn’t entirely fiction, as amputees with phantom limb syndrome experience daily struggles with the sensations that their arms or legs never left. In this regard, the artists hope to inspire some curiosity in viewers, which they seem to be doing.

“We see evidence of our instrument's powers in the actions of young visitors who, uncertain whether to believe their eyes, peek into the box to double-check what is (not) really happening to their hand.”