Cyborg Skin Lets Amputees Feel Their Missing Limbs Again | Freethink Superhuman

Cyborg Skin Lets Amputees Feel Their Missing Limbs Again | Freethink Superhuman

(energetic music) – [Narrator] We’re all
familiar with prosthetic limbs. If you’re not, please see
seasons one through five of this show, Superhuman, from Freethink. It’s like wall to wall prosthetics. – [Doctor Osborn] It’s amazing
what prosthetic technology has come to in the past several decades. A lot of progress has been made
on how you control the limb, but, now we want to be able
to feel something with it. – [Narrator] This is the E-Dermis. A prototype for a technology to give users a sense of touch for
their prosthetic devices. This is Dr. Luke Osborn.
He’s a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. And, for the last several years he’s been developing the E-Dermis: a flexible sensor that can,
for some prosthetic users, provide a sense of touch. – [Dr. Osborn] I think
it’s really interesting to take a step back, and
think about how important touch is to our everyday lives. We’ve gotten really good,
as humans, at being able to quickly identify
things just based on what they feel like, and
unfortunately, there aren’t prosthetic limbs on
the market that provide sensory feedback to an amputee. They don’t get information
back about what it is they’re touching unless they’re looking at the thing that they’re grabbing. – [Narrator] Dr. Osborn
wants to tap into a phenomenon nearly eighty percent
of amputees experience: Phantom limb syndrome. – [Doctor Osborn] Phantom
limb sensation is one where you’ve lost a limb, or part of your limb, but you can still feel it. The region of the brain
that represents the limb is still there and still
working to some extent. So let’s see if we can tap into that to get them to feel something that maybe they haven’t felt for twenty years. – [Narrator] Dr. Osborn
started by developing a flexible sensor that could mimic the sensory qualities of human skin. – If you were to look at a little cross-section of your skin and see all the different receptors
you would notice that they’re not all in one layer. They’re offset, and some are higher up in the skin than others. And so, we build the E-Dermis
to actually mimic that. The top layer represents
what we’re calling the nociceptive layer. When it experiences something
painful, it’s going to send you some information back. So, the nociceptor gives your body information about pain. Further down in your skin
you have mechanoreceptors. Mechanoreceptors tell
you information about how hard you’re pressing. So, what we were really
interested in is, okay, what do we need to do to give somebody the ability to feel something again. And that can greatly influence -Yeah Something like this. – [Narrator] This is Andrew Ruben. Fifteen years ago, an injury
left his hand and foot without any sensation or mobility. So, a few years ago he had
them therapeutically amputated. Before I had my prosthetic,
I had a hand that was already insense,
that was paralyzed. So, I couldn’t feel my hand. So, I’d bang it around,
it would be traumatized. I’d wound it, and not even know. And eventually, that’s why I decided well, I’ll get a hand that has function. – [Narrator] To help Andrew
regain a sense of touch, Luke has to first map the
nerves in Andrew’s arms, so they can send signals from the E-Dermis to Andrew’s brain. I’m going to target your thumb. Mhm. Which is right here, and
we’re not going to move it, we’re just going to put the
electrode right here on the tip. After an amputation, the sensory nerves that go through your
arm up into your brain generally are still there. And so, what we’re trying to
do is find where they are. -It’s going to light up red when the stimulation is on. Okay. Yes. No. It’s hard to explain the feeling is like. There’s this, I guess, the
visualization that goes on. You reimagine what you had, what wasn’t there before. Right there, that’s the– – Okay. – [Andrew] Painted that green, and that was the thumb. – All right. So would you say like, this? – [Andrew] Yes. – [Doctor Osborn] And, kind of
as you move the probe right? – [Andrew] Yeah. During these experiments,
it’s not an experience of loss that I experienced. It’s an experience of presence, of “that’s where my thumb is”. It’s filled with possibility. (dramatic music) -[Dr. Osborn] Is that you, voluntarily?
-[Andrew] This is me. -[Dr. Osborn] Nice. There was one moment we found today, where… It wasn’t one finger, two
fingers, it was the whole hand. And I said, this is like
I stuck my hand in water for the first time. The E-Dermis itself is still
being heavily researched both at Johns Hopkins University, and the Applied Physics Lab. You can imagine incorporating
something like temperature. When we touch an object, we
also know how hot or cold it is. So, there are other aspects
to touch that we haven’t addressed yet that would be
really interesting to see how those all play together. – [Andrew] The sensory experience,
what’s interesting to me is the way it gives me new abilities. I no longer feel disabled. – [Doctor Osborn] When we’re
able to take one of the sensors we’ve built, put it on a prosthetic hand, it provides some sensory
feedback to an amputee, and they say “wow, I haven’t
felt that in numbers of years”. Those never get old. – [Narrator] We tend
to think of our skin as what separates us from the world. But it’s also what connects us to it. This research holds
the promise of allowing prosthetics users that
feeling of connection that so many of us take for granted. If you liked this video, I hope you will like and subscribe to us on YouTube. We make a lot of great videos. We’re always looking for cool stories about people who are out
there thinking differently and changing the world. And, we love to share them with you.

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17 thoughts on “Cyborg Skin Lets Amputees Feel Their Missing Limbs Again | Freethink Superhuman

  1. You're telling me I can get the sensations of having an actual human arm, with the physical advantages of a robotic limb? The FUTURE IS HERE

  2. I like the video but next time can you show which patch of nerves and neurons are activated while using the. But I do admit I have not seen all of your videos.

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