From precision mechanical arms built for the delicate skill of playing the piano to hands inspired by Marvel superhero Iron Man, prosthetics are no longer the dumb, rubber models of old.
We’ve rounded up the most amazing tech prosthetics that give wearers lifelike grip, balance and movement by connecting to an amputee’s muscles, or in the case of the Bebionic, directly to a person’s brain.
Plus, it’s not just limbs. Researchers in India and the US have designed prosthetics to replace the voice boxes of throat cancer patients and the eyes of people suffering vision loss.
It’s been likened to Luke Skywalker’s hand in Star Wars and has even drawn similarities to the technology seen in The Terminator yet the Bebionic is actually the world’s most lifelike prosthetic hand. Known as a myoeletric prosthesis, the Bebionic hand connects directly to the wearer’s brain and is powered by electrical signals generated naturally by their own muscles. It offers 14 different grip patterns and hand positions “designed to handle almost anything that you need to do in an average day.” It’s so dextrous, it can even tie shoelaces and automatically changes the level of grip in case something needs a more delicate touch or it feels the object slipping. Manufacturers RSL Steeper additionally sells a silicone glove that looks just like a real hand.
With a staggering 10 powered joints and six pre-programmed grips, the LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution) arm similarly takes inspiration from Skywalker’s arm in Star Wars. Made by Mobius Bionics, the LUKE is the only commercially available prosthetic to have a powered shoulder, making it possible for amputees who have lost their entire arm to be able to lift their arm(s) above their head. The grips range from the Power grip – designed to hold larger, heavier objects – to the Fine pinch grip, capable of gripping items as small as peas and zippers. There is even a Tool grip designed to hold and control DIY tools.
Open Bionics’ Hero Arm
For children with prosthetics, school can be a difficult time and that’s where the Hero Arm comes in. The Hero Arm from Bristol-based Open Bionic is a powered bionic hand controlled by the wearer’s muscles. As the world’s first medically certified, 3D-printed robotic prosthetic, everything from the hand, to the socket and frame are tailor-made for the user, including the types of grip. Plus wearers can personalise the design, choosing covers from a range of Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and more. Available in three sizes, the smallest hand weighs just 280g (0.62lbs), whereas the full arm weighs less than 1kg (2.2lbs) making it the lightest commercially available bionic hand.