The ultimate bionic arm

Written by Domenico Di Maio
Artwork Diego Soprana

Week 50

Re-reading articles from our ROBOT issue, it has become clear that robotics can play an important role in evolution.
We can easily take into account lower production and labour costs as well as increased production efficiency – allowing ourselves to forget the ethical implications that a sensitive issue like this may arouse.
In fact, the negative aspects often fall by the wayside when we think of robotics applied to the medical field. There has been a ton of academic research and prototyping in order to create appliances that can revolutionize the lives of people who due to physical impairments are unable to perform simple daily tasks.
In the field of medical technology we can count dozens of companies that have committed to research, and spent time, capital and resources on the creation of new prosthetic technologies. The product that best fits this week’s theme is called bebionic, produced by Steeper Prosthetics. This company specialises in upper and lower extremity prostheses, and applies innovative design to the bio-medical field: “We unite pioneering prosthesis manufacturing, giving clinicians and patients not just a choice, but a clinically independent choice.”
This product remains top of the field as a result of innovations that give the hand unrivalled versatility, functionality and performance. Individual motors in each finger allow one to move the hand and grip in a natural, coordinated way. There are 14 selectable grip patterns and hand positions that enable one to perform everyday activities with ease. There is also proportional speed control, innovative palm design and bebalance software and wireless technology located within the bebionic, which makes it easy to customise the functions to suit ones lifestyle.

Those familiar with using this type of prosthetic technology include Angel, an actress from the Hunger Games who was born without a left hand, and Nigel Ackland, a precious metals smelter. Five years ago Nigel was involved in an accident at work involving an industrial blender. This led to a severe crush injury of his right forearm. Recently, Nigel was fitted with a bebionic3 hand, which out of all the products he has sampled has been the most lifelike and functional.

Through the muscle stimuli in the arm, Nigel controls the opening and closing of the hand and defines patterns to establish finger movements. He can now do everyday tasks two-handed like driving, typing, shopping and washing his hands.
The impact of this technology is undeniable. For this reason, I like to consider the bionic arm a definitive invention, hopefully the first of many to come, which provides immeasurable assistance to those with physical impairments. It has also carved the path for increased innovation in the field of robotics.