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Elsewhere, researchers are looking to make more responsive prosthetics with many looking to flexible electronics or "prosthetic skin" to do the job.

"We're looking into putting electronics onto surfaces that can be deformed, flexed but also stretched like a rubber band," says Stephanie Lacour of Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.

"The idea with the prosthetic skin would be to have some kind of a glove like a latex glove which we could fit around the current prosthetic limb but that would be full of electronic sensor function that would mimic the sense of touch we have in human skin."

Eventually, such sensors might feed information back to the brain via neural interface devices, but in the meantime there are other options.

Otto Bock are working on simpler devices whereby electronic sensors on a prosthetic detect information about objects and temperature which is fed back to the user via vibrations or pressure applied to the adjacent skin.

The surgical rerouting of sensory nerves in the stump (or chest muscles where an entire arm is replaced by a prosthetic) could enhance the effect, by creating areas of skin which feel what fingers would once have felt.

A new generation of bionics could also enhance the lives of individuals who are paralysed from the neck downwards or who have conditions like Locked-In Syndrome.

Last year, a paralysed US man made headlines after temporary electrodes placed on his brain were used to control a remote prosthetic hand which he used to stroke his girlfriend's hand.

Back in Switzerland, researchers are testing a thought-controlled wheelchair which uses electrodes placed on the skin in a skullcap to drive the chair.

Prof Fawcett says such machines will be "a very exciting technology for the future" but says there are big problems to overcome.

"The issue with electrodes which record from the brain is bandwidth. You can transmit very little information and it's slow.

"The electrodes also have to be very localised so you can only record from one bit of the brain and at the moment the electrodes are very unreliable and tend to produce inflammation and this stops the electrodes working.

"The other issue is that the electronics which you have to add are very complicated and you have to attach large structures to these skulls."

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