World’s first electronic fingertip could open the door for next-gen surgical gloves

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electronic fingertip surgical glove 1
The humble pointer finger doesn’t get the respect it deserves. This useful digit is always outshined by the more incendiary middle finger and the starved for attention pinky finger. Not to mention the finger married couples slide their rings onto. Oh yeah, and who can forget that bastion of hitchhiker-dom, the thumb. It’s about time the pointer finger got some love! Well, thanks to some significant advances in touch-based technology, it is about to.

An electronic “fingertip” that heightens one’s sense of touch is currently being joint developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and China’s Dalian University of Technology. The fake finger consists of ultra-flexible silicon-based electronics and soft sensors mounted onto all of that sweet, artificial skin. The appendage is even molded to fit the wearer’s actual fingertip. There is no one-size-fits-all mentality at work here.

When you wear the, um, finger it works to produce a mild electronic tingling sensation, which could eventually be used to recreate the feeling of heat, texture, motion, and resistance. Not bad for the under-appreciated pointer finger. The technology could even eventually lead to surgical robots that interact with their surroundings via touch.

This is just a concept design for now but the researchers are already hard at work at increasing the functionality. Plans are in place to use the same technology to create a sort of “snuggie” for the human heart. This could help doctors monitor all sorts of cardiac problems, including arrhythmias.