One of the more exciting bio-engineering labs in Seattle has to be U.W.’s Neurobotics Lab. I got a quick tour from Professor Yoky Matsuoka. She’s been working on the problem of a prosthetic hand that can perform like a real hand. In the process, she’s found herself “deconstructing” the human hand. She discovered, for example, that there’s a functional benefit to the way finger bones are shaped (with knuckles that taper, in a non-symetrical way). She also says having five fingers may not be as crucial as paying attention to the way the fingers bend and flex.
Here’s a photo of her with one of their prototypes. My interview with Matsuoka that aired on KPLU is here. An extended version of that interview, with about 3 minutes worth that I had to cut out for broadcast, is at this link.