What pianist has never dreamed of having extra fingers to play new symphonies? This dream is now a reality, thanks to the “thumb robotic »Created by researchers fromImperial College in London in 2015. Last May, another team of researchers had already shown that the brain easily appropriated this new appendage, controlled by a Pressure sensor attached to the foot (read below). Today they wanted to know if this thumb could be useful for activities that require fine motor skills, such as playing the piano.
The researchers first measured skills in matter of dexterity and synchronization in twelve guinea pigs, six knowing how to play the piano and six others being novices. They then asked them to play a series of simple pieces on an electric piano with the extra thumb, which is actually located after the little finger like a sixth finger. Results : ” Regardless of the piano experience, the subjects were all able to play the piano. keyboard with eleven fingers in less than an hour », Congratulate the researchers who have published their work on the server bioRxiv. « This shows that we can use an extra finger not only in tasks that we already know, but that we can also learn to use it to perform unknown tasks. », boast Aldo Faisal, one of the study’s authors.
He and his colleagues are now working on a prototype bringing a whole extra hand. Franz Schubert’s piano for four hands will soon be played solo.
Our brain is able to handle an extra robotic thumb
Article by Marie Origas published on May 24, 2021
It turns out that humans are very good when they use a robotic “third thumb,” according to an experiment conducted by neuroscientists from theUniversity College London (UCL) and published in the journal Science Robotics. 3D printable, this thumb is easily customizable and can be door on the side of the hand, opposite the user’s actual thumb, near the little finger. The wearer controls it with pressure sensors attached to their feet, under the big toes. Connected wirelessly, the two sensors control different movements thumb by immediately responding to the wearer’s subtle pressure changes.
For five days, 20 participants were trained in the use of this robotic third thumb (Third Thumb in English), made by designer Dani Clode. They were challenged to perform tasks, normally requiring the use of two hands, only with the increased hand, for example, building towers of blocks. The results showed that, not only did the participants master the use of an extra inch with surprising ease, but also their brains had adapted quickly to the new skill. Users have even reported that they increasingly feel like that third inch is part of their body!
A robotic third thumb can change the way the biological hand is represented in the brain. © Dani Clode Design and The Plasticity Lab, UCL