The idea that humans have wings or an extra arm may seem far-fetched, something that can only be expected in fictional films.
But these scenarios could become a reality in the next few decades thanks to leaps in human development, some researchers argue.
Researchers have already developed a foot-operated “third thumb” that allows the wearer to open a bottle or peel a banana with one hand.
Experts now believe that extra thumbs are just the first step towards bigger and more impressive additions to the human body.
Tamar Makin, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, says the brain’s ability to accommodate an extra limb is “extraordinary.” But scaling the design to larger devices has its own hurdles.
She added: “The big question is how do you control a body part that you didn’t have before? When we work with replacement technologies, such as replacement dentures, the goal is very clear. I want you to continue to use your body to the fullest.” And on top of that, I’m giving you an extra bite. We are also concerned with what we call the problem of resource reallocation – what if resources are stolen from our feet to be put into our hands?
When asked if wings or even tentacles could be designed for human use, McCain replied: “Yes, it is technically possible. The technology is there, we just need to scale it up. For example, we want it to be comfortable and convenient, it shouldn’t be heavy, and it shouldn’t be plugged into an electrical outlet. The real problem is management. So the wings are really simple because they are just one piece. degree of freedom – up and down. But when you do something more complex, like a tentacle, you need a lot of control. For example, if you want to reach for your coffee cup because it’s too far away, you want to use your sensors. But if you really need to focus, because it’s a really difficult task, then just standing around will be less of a hassle.”
Her colleague Dani Claude pioneered the creation of the third thumb, which was first introduced in 2017.
The 3D printed robotic finger is worn on the side of the hand opposite the user’s real thumb.
The wearer operates pressure sensors attached to his feet, on the underside of his big toes, with a wireless link linking them.
In their study, 20 participants were trained to use their thumb for five days, such as using it to lift several balls or glasses of wine with one hand.
They very quickly mastered the basics of working with the thumb and could use it while distracted or blindfolded.
As the team reported in the journal Science Robotics, participants increasingly felt their thumbs as part of their bodies.
Before and after training, the researchers scanned the brains of the participants. They found subtle but important changes in the organization of neural circuits that light up when we use our hands.
“Evolution has not prepared us to use an additional body part, and we have found that in order to expand our capabilities in new and unexpected ways, the brain must adapt the representation of the biological body,” McCain said.
Claude has also developed a spiral robotic probe that acts like a prosthetic arm.
Called “Vine 2.0,” it contains 26 individual vertebrae that the wearer controls using pressure sensors and electronics in the shoe.
Silvestro Messira from the Sant’Anna Advanced School in Pisa is also working on a third arm attached to the body around the waist and controlled by the breath.
The researchers will discuss their progress in evolutionary leaps at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
Source: Daily Mail