Cochlear implants can restore hearing to individuals with some types of hearing loss. Retinal implants are now on the market to restore sight to the blind. But there are no commercially available prosthetics that restore a sense of touch to those who have lost a limb.
Several products are in development, including this haptic system at Case Western Reserve University, which would enable upper-limb prosthetic users to, say, pluck a grape off a stem or pull a potato chip out of a bag. It sounds simple, but such tasks are virtually impossible without a sense of touch and pressure.
Now, a team at the University of Glasgow that previously developed a flexible ‘electronic skin’ capable of making sensitive pressure measurements, has figured out how to power their skin with sunlight. That renewable energy could be used to power an array of sensors to add feeling to an artificial limb, the authors describe this month in Advanced Functional Materials.