When the horror of thalidomide stuck in the 1960’s, the British Government was determined to make up for their inadvertent error. A group of engineers and scientists have worked consistently for the last forty years to develop a prosthesis that truly emulates the function of a human hand.
In June, we headed off to the Netcare Rehab Centre in Auckland Park, JHB, where Heinrich Grimsell and Allan Oates, from Prosthetic Solutions, hosted Gaurav Mishra, of Touch Bionics UK. He was there at the behest of Icexpress to demonstrate the incredible i-Limb Hand, the world’s first fully articulating, and commercially available, bionic hand.
It was a happy event. Just the night before, the team behind the development of the Hand had won the 2008 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, the UK’s premier award for innovation in engineering.
This hand is to prosthetics what the Bugatti Veyron is to cars, it is absolutely amazing.
It has five individually powered digits, each with their own gearing and, when the cosmesis (flexible skin covering) is on, it not only acts like a hand, but looks like one too. Can you spot the prosthesis in the picture above?
With its opposable thumb you can easily put a key in a lock, load a new CD in the player or pick up the penny you dropped on the floor. They have even given it a pointing feature so you can peck away at the keyboard!
It is eerily life-like and when you shake hands you don’t rush off to the Trauma unit with crushed fingers!
Gaurav wanted to show us how easy the hand is to use, so Heinrich called on Phineas Makheta, who lost both his hands in an industrial accident back in 2002, to come in and help with the demo.
The i-Limb attached perfectly to his Ottobock cuff and within seconds Phineas had figured out how to work it and was grinning like the cat that got the proverbial cream.
Of course, technology like this is not cheap but the important thing is that it is available here and now.