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Bionic Hand

The big picture

1 min read

It’s got an embedded computer, a rechargeable battery, and five small dc motors. It costs US $18 500. And it can do things most other prosthetic hands just can’t, like grabbing a paper cup without crushing it, turning a key in a lock, and pressing buttons on a cellphone. The fingers of Touch Bionics’ iLIMB Hand are controlled by the nerve impulses of the user’s arm, and they operate independently, adapting to the shape of whatever they’re grasping. The hand can also do superhuman tricks, like holding a very hot plate or gripping an object tirelessly for days. A skin-tone covering gives the bionic hand a lifelike look, but some customers prefer semitransparent models, to proudly flaunt their robotic hands. ”They like the Terminator look,” says Touch Bionics CEO Stuart Mead.

See more photos and videos at IEEE Spectrum’s robotics blog, Automaton,

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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