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Touch Bionics introduces app-controlled prosthetic hand

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April 19, 2013

The i-limb is controlled by a smartphone app

The i-limb is controlled by a smartphone app

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Whichever marketing genius came up with the Apple catchphrase, "There's an app for that," has a lot to answer for – or brag about. It's heard so often these days that it’s become a cliché. Touch Bionic’s i-limb ultra revolution robotic artificial hand gives yet another reason to repeat the phrase. It’s linked to a smartphone app, which allows for greater control of the hand, including the ability to program it to suit the wearer’s personal needs.

According to Touch Bionics, the i-limb ultra revolution is the “first upper limb prosthesis that can be controlled via a mobile application.” The individually articulated fingers have variable digit-by-digit grip strength and the powered rotating thumb is controlled directly by means of skin electrodes attached to the wearer’s stump that pick up muscle impulses. These electrodes use one of four muscle impulses or triggers, which can be assigned to a particular grip or gesture – much like programming the speed dial on a phone.

i-limb ultra revolution hand showing wrist attachment and precision grip

What’s novel about the i-limb ultra revolution is its Quick Grips biosim application. Compatible with iPad or iPhone, Quick Grips uses Bluetooth to link the hand to a smartphone app, which can activate 24 grip options at the tap of the screen, including standard precision pinch open, pinch closed, thumb precision pinch open, grasp and handshake. It can also be programmed by the wearer for custom grips.

Other functions of the Quick Grips app include; a collection of favorite grips that fit the wearer’s daily needs, such as typing, holding papers, or using a mouse; the Hand Health Check that activates the prosthesis diagnostic; and Training, which includes activities and games as well as providing graphical feedback of muscle control signals. There’s also a Don or Doff setting that positions the hand for putting on or removing the covering glove.

The i-limb ultra revolution comes in black or neutral colors as well as a choice of skins, from a functional one that looks like a translucent plastic glove or a skin-like glove that can be matched to the wearer’s pigment.

The app provides the i-limb ultra revolution with 26 programmed grips

Weighing 443 grams (15.6 oz) to 515 grams (18.1 oz) depending on size (small or medium) and configuration, the 7.4 V hand can handle a load of 90 kilograms (198 lb) on the hand itself and 32 kilograms (71 lb) on the fingers. There’s also a variety of flexible wrist options for more natural positioning.

"We believe that the i-limb ultra revolution,with powered thumb rotation and the ability to quickly access multiple grip patterns, offers unparalleled dexterity and control, enabling wearers to more easily perform activities of daily living and thus increase their quality of life," said Ian Stevens, CEO of Touch Bionics.

The video below shows the i-limb ultra revolution in action.

Source: Touch Bionics via New Scientist

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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