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Extra Finger, No Problem: People Quickly Learn to Use Robotic Third Thumb

Researchers find that people quickly learn to use a 3D-printed robotic "Third Thumb," opening new possibilities for human augmentation.

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A recent study by researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown that people can remarkably adapt to using an extra thumb in a short amount of time. The device, called the “Third Thumb,” is a 3D-printed robotic thumb worn on the side of the hand opposite the natural thumb. It’s controlled by pressure sensors under the user’s big toes.

How It Works

The Third Thumb is not a replacement for a missing thumb; it’s an augmentation designed to expand what a hand can do. The pressure sensors under the toes wirelessly communicate with the robotic thumb. Pressure on the right toe moves the thumb across the hand, while pressure on the left toe moves it up and down.

Adapting Quickly

Researchers were surprised to find that 98% of participants in their study were able to successfully use the Third Thumb within one minute. They performed tasks like picking up multiple balls or wine glasses with one hand, things that are normally difficult without using both hands. This suggests a high potential for such devices to be adopted in various applications.

Beyond Just Tasks

The study also found that people quickly incorporated the Third Thumb into their natural hand movements. For example, some participants started using the thumb to gesture while talking, demonstrating an integration of the device into their body language.

Potential Applications

While still in the research phase, the Third Thumb has potential uses in a variety of areas. It could help individuals with limited hand dexterity perform daily tasks more easily. It could also be used in industrial settings to provide workers with an extra “hand” for complex operations.

What’s Next?

The research team is continuing to explore the potential of the Third Thumb. They are interested in understanding how the brain adapts to controlling an extra body part, and how this could be used to improve the design of future prosthetic and augmentation devices.

The Future of Human Augmentation

The Third Thumb raises questions about what it means to be human and the evolving relationship between our bodies and technology. As researchers continue to explore the possibilities of human augmentation, it’s clear that our understanding of what the human body can do is expanding.

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Srishti Gulati

Always on the pulse of the latest tech news, Srishti ensures that our readers are updated with real-time developments in the tech world. Her dedication to journalism and knack for uncovering stories make her an invaluable member of the team.

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