Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bionic Hand: Hand That Sees Offers New Hope to Amputees

A revolutionary discovery leading to the betterment of the affected, introducing the bionic hand! With research and studies over years, biomedical engineers in the Newcastle University have invented a prosthesis worth praising.

This newest discovery allows the individual to wear and reach out to objects in the same way a real hand does, without thoughts. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the hand consists of a camera, assesses it by taking pictures and triggers movements, like a reflex action.


A few amputees trialed it and the University are to introduce the same to patients in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. As explained by a Senior lecturer from the Biomedical engineering department, the new models are hardy, light weight and durable. With studies conducted in the UK, 600 new amputees are reported every year, and around 500,000 in the US.

This bit of information is important because it gives us the idea of the need of the hour and how this discovery can benefit the population. Instead of usage of myoelectrical signals, neural networks are used for these bionic hands. It was done by showing the computer a few pictures, teaching it actions like gripping and clutching of various objects. This is done by viewing the same object in various angles and light to identify it with the hand, as to what kind of grip would be required for picking it up and performing an action.

Grasp types:

The programming was done according to four types of grasps, palm wrist neutral, palm wrist pronated, tripod and pinch. Within a matter of milliseconds using a 99p camera, the hand identifies the correct type of grasp required for an object. This helps in broadening the object identification, rather than manually programming images of objects in the hand.

Baby steps to success:

The research objective was to make the bionic hand sense pressure and temperature too, and send it to the brain. The purpose was to set-up forearm neural networks to allow a two-way communication with the brain. The working would involve the electrodes to be wrapped around the nerve endings in the arm, establishing direct communication of the brain and the prosthesis. The process is cheap and does not involve new prosthesis, old ones can be used for the same. The most success has perhaps been seen with upper limb prosthesis.

A live example! 

According to a live example of Doug Mcintosh, 56 years old from Aberdeen, Scotland, who lost his right arm to cancer, the prosthesis was immensely rewarding.

Battling cancer and feeding a family was not easy. He was one of the amputees who were involved in the myoelectric trials and later the Newcastle team. He has successfully been part of various charity events for amputees and cycled long distances, standing as an inspiration to a lot of people all over the world.

The only complaint he had was that the hand was not doing the real job, it still felt foreign. He would prefer a split over it, any day. This was before he was introduced to the newer, developed version of the bionic hand, serving the esthetic and materialistic purpose.


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