Scientists Are Now Able To Give Humans Extra Limbs?

Scientists at Cambridge are working on creating augmented limbs.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

Science is getting better every day. Recently, scientists discovered how to cure hiccups, and now they’re figuring out a way to give people a third arm. While science hasn’t quite gotten to the point where humans can grow extra limbs, it is getting pretty close to where people can augment robotic limbs to their bodies, according to Futurism

Researchers at Cambridge University are hard at work figuring out how to design robotic limbs that will take the art of multitasking to the next level. Tamar Makin, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University, said that his team is working on building an arm that can help people do extra tasks, and he used the example of using the arm in the kitchen by doing tasks like cutting vegetables while the wearer stirs a boiling pot. 

Not much of a cook? Not to worry. The technology is meant to do anything a human with extra limbs could possibly need. For instance, the Cambridge team is in talks with a surgeon who plans to use the extra arm to hold his camera while he operates instead of having his assistant do it. That way, the doctor has full control of every aspect of the operation happening in his surgical room.

While building humans extra limbs is still a goal on the horizon that has yet to be fully realized, the Cambridge team has already successfully built an extra thumb as a prototype. Dani Clode, a researcher at the University’s Plasticity lab, has 3D-printed a thumb that users can augment to their hand. Keeping it British, the U.K. team provided an example of the augmented “third thumb” holding a cup of tea so that the rest of the fingers could stir the sugar and milk in the cup at the same time.

humans extra limbs

While humans acquiring augmented extra limbs could be a convenient tool for anyone, the point of the innovation isn’t just to give someone a handy party trick to whip out when people come over. Instead, the purpose of the augmented limbs is to empower those who need extra assistance or who have disabilities that the robotic arms, legs, and thumbs could help with.

While prosthetic limbs already exist, the idea behind providing humans with extra limbs is that augmenting an existing, working limb could be easier than replacing an entire missing one. Humans who need the additional assistance could augment the extra limb to a functional arm, for instance, and suddenly have a new limb that doesn’t require the invasive, expensive, and emotionally tolling surgery that prosthetic limbs require. 

Often, prosthetic limbs require brain surgery to install brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that are used to control them. On the other hand, humans who opt to use extra limbs, like the augmented third thumb and the other limbs currently in the making, don’t need to go through any surgery because the limb is wirelessly controlled through sensors underneath the big toe. 

According to the Cambridge team, the sensors under the toe are way more intuitive than brain chips are, anyway. During their tests, humans between ages 3 and 97 were able to control the extra limbs within minutes of putting them on, a feat that brain chips are unable to accomplish.

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