See world's most advanced bionic hand in action
DR MAX ORTIZ CATALAN
Experts from the University of Essex have helped develop the world's most advanced bionic hand.
It offers a greater degree of sensitivity, scientists say, and has a fully rechargeable battery.
The hand is the first of its kind for people who have had an amputation below the elbow.
And this latest design does not require carrying around – as previous bionic hands did – as all elements, including computer technology, are incorporated.
International experts worked on the project – including from the University of Essex – which involved the patient, from Sweden, having 16 electrodes implanted in her upper arm.
“This is a take-home hand,” said Dr Luca Citi from the university’s brain-computer interfaces and neural engineering laboratory.
“We detect the electrical signal that the brain is sending to control the hand.
“We detect that signal and we do some number crunching to make sense of those signals, realising that a specific pattern of signals relates to a specific function that the patient is trying to perform.
“We tried to take an approach where we were making sense of the neurosignal to restore movement in a natural way.
He added: “So the patient does not need to specifically think about what to do, they can use the hand in a more natural way.”
Dr Citi also said there is now a direct mechanical connection with the bones – making the hand feel much more part of the body than previous models.
The woman, who is not being named, is now learning how to control her new hand using virtual technology.
Two more people will receive this new generation of prosthetic hands in the coming months – in Italy and Sweden.
Speaking to the Press Association, Dr Max Ortiz Catalan – who led the team – said the woman needed to re-learn how to use the hand using virtual technology.
She also needed to increase her strength, he said, but predicted: “In a few months, she will be ready to take the hand home.”
Dr Catalan believes thousands of patients could potentially benefit in the future, adding: “It’s not as good as a real hand but it’s good enough for people to be able to go about their daily lives.”