New bionic hand allows person to feel what they are touching

2-bionic-handsBionic-handv1

The first bionic hand that allows an amputee to feel what they are touching will be transplanted later this year in a pioneering operation that could introduce a new generation of artificial limbs with sensory perception.

The patient is an unnamed man in his 20s living in Rome who lost the lower part of his arm following an accident, said Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

The wiring of his new bionic hand will be connected to the patient’s nervous system with the hope that the man will be able to control the movements of the hand as well as receiving touch signals from the hand’s skin sensors.

Dr Micera said that the hand will be attached directly to the patient’s nervous system via electrodes clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves.

This should allow the man to control the hand by his thoughts, as well as receiving sensory signals to his brain from the hand’s sensors. It will effectively provide a fast, bidirectional flow of information between the man’s nervous system and the prosthetic hand.

“This is real progress, real hope for amputees. It will be the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback for grasping,” Dr Micera said.

“It is clear that the more sensory feeling an amputee has, the more likely you will get full acceptance of that limb,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

“We could be on the cusp of providing new and more effective clinical solutions to amputees in the next year,” he said.

An earlier, portable model of the hand was temporarily attached to Pierpaolo Petruzziello in 2009, who lost half his arm in a car accident. He was able to move the bionic hand’s fingers, clench them into a fist and hold objects. He said that he could feel the sensation of needles pricked into the hand’s palm.

However, this earlier version of the hand had only two sensory zones whereas the latest prototype will send sensory signals back from all the fingertips, as well as the palm and the wrists to give a near life-like feeling in the limb, Dr Micera said.

“The idea would be that it could deliver two or more sensations. You could have a pinch and receive information from three fingers, or feel movement in the hand and wrist,” Dr Micera said.

“We have refined the interface [connecting the hand to the patient], so we hope to see much more detailed movement and control of the hand,” he told the meeting.

The plan is for the patient to wear the bionic hand for a month to see how he adapts to the artificial limb. If all goes well, a full working model will be ready for testing within two years, Dr Micera said.

One of the unresolved issues is whether patients will be able to tolerate having such a limb attached to them all the time, or whether they would need to remove it periodically to give them a rest.

Another problem is how to conceal the wiring under the patient’s skin to make them less obtrusive. The electrodes of the prototype hand to be fitted later this year will be inserted through the skin rather than underneath it but there are plans under development to place the wiring subcutaneously, Dr Micera said.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/a-sensational-breakthrough-the-first-bionic-hand-that-can-feel-8498622.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Roman kids wore shoes that reflected their parents’ status.

roman-fancy-shoe-130107

Children and infants living in and around Roman military bases around the first century wore shoes that revealed the kids’ social status, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. The teeny-tiny shoes, some sized for infants, not only reveal that families were part of Roman military life, but also show that children were dressed to match their parent’s place in the social hierarchy, said study researcher Elizabeth Greene of the University of Western Ontario.

“The role of dress in expressing status was prominent even for children of the very youngest ages,” Greene said.

Just as today’s modern kid might rock a pair of shoes covered in their favorite superheroes, or that light up with every step, ancient Roman kids of well-off families wore more decorative shoes than their commoner contemporaries, Greene’s research reveals. Over 4,000 shoes have been found at Vindolanda, a Roman army fort in northern Britain that was occupied from the first to fourth centuries.

In every time period of the fort’s operation, even the very early frontier days, children’s shoes show up in crumbled domestic spaces, official military buildings and rubbish heaps, Greene said.

“We don’t even have a period, not even Period 1, where we’re free of children’s shoes,” she said.

From this pile of footwear, Greene and her colleagues traced what types of children’s shoes were found where. They discovered that the decorations on the shoes corresponded to the places they were uncovered. In the barracks, for example, children’s shoes mimicked the common boot of adult soldiers.

Thanks to wooden tablets found at the site, the researchers know which building housed Flavius Cerialis, the prefect of the Ninth Cohort of Batavians around A.D. 100. Flavius’ family, including his wife, Sulpicia Lepidina, may have had a role in public life around the base, Greene said. Supporting this idea, the house contained an elaborate infant shoe in the exact style of a high-status man’s boot.

The shoe is for a child too young to walk, but it boasts a full set of iron studs on the sole, just as a man’s boot would. The expensive material suggests the shoe was high quality, Greene said. The upper part of the shoe is leather, cut into an elaborate fishnet pattern. Not only does the pattern show off workmanship, it would have revealed colored socks underneath, which the ancient Romans also used to denote status.

Such a shoe for an infant suggests the owner wore formal dress and would have been shown off at parades and similar events, Greene said. Even as a baby, the offspring of the base’s bigwig would have been expected to follow in his footsteps.

Elsewhere around the base, shoes were less elaborate. Sixteen children’s shoes with at least partially intact upper sections were found in the barracks from the period of about A.D. 105 to A.D. 120. Many were the basic “fell boot” of the Roman military, a simple, high-ankle shoe without decoration. Other shoes found around the base were equipped with “carbatina,” the Roman equivalent of Velcro. These simple shoes were worn by men, women and children and were easily laced and slipped on and off, Greene said. The shoes could also be tightened or loosened, extending their use for a growing child.

In the centurion, or officer’s quarters, archaeologists found two carbatina shoes with more-complex patterning than usual, again supporting the notion that higher-status parents dressed their children in nicer shoes.

Only one shoe, an infant’s that was found in the barracks, did not fit this pattern, Greene said. The sandal uses little leather, so may not have been expensive, but it does have decorative triangular tabs and rosette patterns unusual for the shoe of a soldier’s child. Researchers aren’t sure why this one odd shoe was in the barracks. [Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire]

On the whole, however, the shoes show that families accompanied soldiers and had a role in military life, even from the earliest days of occupation, Greene said. What’s more, their children were locked into their social class early on.

“Even the infant children of the prefect were held to the expectations of dress according to one’s class,” Greene said.

http://www.livescience.com/26047-roman-kids-shoes-statues.html

Drunk Norwegian tourist falls asleep on airport baggage belt

Rome’s Fiumicino airport has defended its security procedures after a drunk Norwegian tourist fell asleep on a baggage belt and travelled 160 feet before being identified by an X-ray scanner.

The 36-year-old, who has not been named, arrived at the international terminal of Italy’s  busiest airport at the end of last month with a backpack and a can of beer in his hand.

The Norwegian was due to check in for a flight to Oslo and when he found no one on duty at the airline desk he leapt across the counter and fell into a deep asleep on the baggage belt with his bag beside him.

As the belt began to move the unsuspecting tourist reportedly travelled for 15 minutes through the secure baggage area in Terminal 3 before officials   spotted his body curled up in a foetal position in an X-ray image on their monitors.

He slept through the whole episode and airport police had trouble waking him when they were called to the scene to investigate what had happened.

A senior officer with Fiumicino airport police said on Thursday the incident exposed no weaknesses in the terminal’s security and it was not the first   kind of incident involving “drunks or people with psychological problems”.

“There’s usually an episode like this once a year and we are alert,” the official said. “In this case we were notified we sounded the alarm immediately and we took action.”

Another police officer told the Italian daily, La   Repubblica : “It’s impossible to avoid a situation like this if there’s no employee at the check-in desk.”

Concerned about the tourist’s exposure to the powerful X-rays, police took him to a nearby hospital before reporting him to prosecutors at Civitavecchia for causing alarm at the airport. Inquiries are continuing.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/9464344/Norwegian-tourist-falls-asleep-on-airport-baggage-belt.html