We have come a long way since rubbing two sticks together to start a fire (which is still really cool!). iPhone users can now block annoying ads on their phones and NASA is about to live stream ultra-high definition video from space. Now, prosthetic body parts are getting a major upgrade. Researchers have successfully tested a new robotic hand wired directly to the brain, allowing the subject to “feel.”

According to the Guardian, a 28-year-old-man who has been paralyzed for more than a decade due to a spinal-cord injury is able to feel again thanks to an advanced prosthetic hand developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. The hand was funded by the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) as part of a research project focused on advanced replacement limbs.

Electrodes from the prosthetic were inserted into the subject’s sensory and motor cortexes, allowing him to control the hand just by thought and sense when each finger was touched individually. Sensors in the hand detect the pressure applied and create electrical signals to mimic touch sensations.

“At one point, instead of pressing one finger, the team decided to press two without telling him,” Darpa program manager Justin Sanchez said. “He responded in jest asking whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him. That is when we knew that the feelings he was perceiving through the robotic hand were near-natural.”

This new development is big news for those who have lost limbs. Fully functioning replacements controlled by sensation? That sounds like something out of a Star Wars movie (Thanks, George Lucas).

Sanchez added, “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless biotechnological restoration of near-natural function. We’ve completed the circuit.”