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Robot Limbs to Plug Into the Brain with Light


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Bionic arm

In a few years' time we'll be able to plug it in.

DARPA / JHUAPL / HDT Engineering Services

Imagine a bionic arm that plugs directly into the nervous system, so that the brain can control its motion, and the owner can feel pressure and heat through their robotic hand. This prospect has come a step closer with the development of photonic sensors that could improve connections between nerves and prosthetic limbs.

Existing neural interfaces are electronic, using metal components that may be rejected by the body. Now Marc Christensen at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and colleagues are building sensors to pick up nerve signals using light instead. They employ optical fibres and polymers that are less likely than metal to trigger an immune response, and which will not corrode.

The sensors are currently in the prototype stage and too big to put in the body, but smaller versions should work in biological tissue, according to the team.

From New Scientist
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