Researchers at the Texas A&M University have discovered that sending small electrical currents to the fingertips of someone operating a robotic arm can help surgeons during robot-assisted procedures.

The team found that by delivering small, yet perceptible buzzes of electrical currents to fingertips, users can be given an accurate perception of distance to contact.

This insight enabled users to control their robotic fingers precisely enough to gently land on fragile surfaces. It’s claimed the technique might be an effective way to help surgeons reduce inadvertent injuries during robot-assisted operative procedures.

The researchers found that users receiving electrical pulses were more aware of the proximity to underlying surfaces and could lower their force of contact by around 70%. They also observed that proximity information delivered through mild electric pulses was about three times more effective than the visual information alone.