Scientists develop wearable robotic ‘third thumb’ to increase range of movement

  • A team of scientists developed the ‘third thumb’
  • It was originally designed by designer Dani Clode
  • The thumb works using the wearer’s foot movements

Published on Jun 10, 2024 at 2:01 PM (UTC+4)
by Siddharth Dudeja

Last updated on Jun 11, 2024 at 11:40 AM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

A new prosthetic that aims to increase your gripping efficiency is in town, and it’s called the ‘Third Thumb’ — developed by Dani Clode and further tested by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Did you know that if you had an extra thumb, you could open a bottle with one hand?

Well, you can, but you will have to wear the odd-looking wearable thumb.

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Origin of the Third Thumb

The Third Thumb is an ‘extra’ robotic thumb whose primary objective is to increase the wearer’s range of movement.

Augmentation designer Dani Clode came up with the idea years ago, but it required further testing.

A team of researchers led by Professor Tamar Makin from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cognition and Brain Science Unit at Cambridge decided to aid Clode and test the viability of this prosthetic.

They first showcased the extra thumb at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2022, where almost 600 people tried it.

Further, the participants took part in various types of tests to simulate real-world scenarios to see how the third thumb fairs.

Only recently, the team of scientists published the results of their findings as part of a research paper.

You guessed it — most people found it useful and claimed it improved their efficiency in performing day-to-day tasks.

Lucy Dowdwall, one of the paper’s co-authors, said, “We were really interested in this research at looking at how good are people initially picking up that initial motor skill.

“So, in the first few moments of usage, can they really use the Third Thumb.”

Cambridge has been making strides lately, as another scientist claimed that a faraway planet has a 50/50 chance of alien life.

How does it work?

The Third Thumb is a 3-D-printed wearable attachment that you wear using a wrist strap.

However, the actual thumb sits on the opposite side of your actual thumb.

It may not be as groovy as the wearable air conditioner, but it has a similar basis of convenience.

To use it, you have to control it using your feet, where pressure sensors are placed.

Pressure applied by the right big toe moves it from side to side, and pressure from the left big toe moves it up and down.

There’s certainly a learning curve to it, so you will have to make a few awkward movements before finally settling in.

But Makin’s team believes that it was easy for most people in the study to quickly grasp how it works.

Out of 596 participants, only four had problems using it.

It will surely be interesting to see if Cyberpunk-esque prosthetic attachments like this make it to the masses, and if everyone wants to adopt tools to increase their efficiency.


Siddharth Dudeja

Siddharth is a tech nerd with a secret love of all things cars. He has been writing for a few years now, and on his free time you would find him gaming when he's not procrastinating.