Phil Newman, marketing director of Touch Bionics, demonstrates the world’s first bionic fingers
The world’s first bionic fingers have been unveiled by scientists. Made of tough, lightweight plastic and loaded with tiny motors, they can bend, grip, point and pick up items. (Video)
The brainchild of British inventors, the ‘ProDigits’ could transform the lives of tens of thousands of people with missing fingers by allowing them to cradle a wine glass, pick a chocolate out of a box or punch a PIN number into a cash machine.
Around 1.2million people worldwide, including more than 50,000 Europeans, are missing one or more fingers due to infections, injury or birth defects.
While people who have lost entire hands have been able to make use of prosthetic ones for decades, the options for those with less severe injuries have been limited until now.
Phil Newman, of manufacturer Touch Bionics, said: ‘There has been no solution like this for the partial hand amputee community.
‘The ProDigits provide a powered device with a grip and it has returned these people to a level of functionality and independence.
‘It is supporting a community that has never had support before.’
The device capitalises on the brain’s determination to try to move a limb or finger, even when it is missing.
The new invention can help people with up to five missing digits on a hand
Thinking it is still there, the brain sends signals to the nerves and severed muscles.
These are intercepted by delicate sensors and used to move tiny motors hidden at the base of the artificial fingers.
Up to four customised fingers and a thumb can be attached to a socket that slips over the real hand.
Coverings include a natural-looking artificial skin.
At average price of £35,000 to £40,000, such technology doesn’t come cheap. However, its makers hope it will be available on the NHS in the future.
The device, which was launched in Britain today, has already won the approval of patients in the US and on the continent.
Maria Antonia Iglesias can write and hold a glass with the device
Maria Antonia Iglesias, 42, had parts of both hands and both feet amputated after suffering a severe bacterial infection.
The former concert pianist, from Catalonia in Spain, can now write again, as well as hold cutlery, drink from a glass and pick a chocolate out of a box.
Perhaps most significantly, she is able to teach the piano again.
She said: ‘The hand has made a real change to my life.’
Eric Jones, a 42-year-old father of two, lost much of the use of his left hand and the fingers and thumbs of his right to a life-threatening blood-clotting disorder.
He was fitted with ProDigits for his right hand in December of last year, and given a more advanced version this summer.
Now, he can play games with his son and daughter, pick up their Lego and take them to school.
Mr Jones, from New York, said: ‘With ProDigits, I gain more independence
‘The bionic hand gives me one thing that no other prosthetic can – the ability to grip.
‘The hand is very easy to use, the technology is amazing.
‘Touch Bionics tell me it is only going to get better but I can’t imagine anything more awesome than this.’
However, the ProDigits cannot perform all the functions of real fingers. Movements outside of their reach include snapping of the fingers.
Touch Bionics, which is based in Livingston, West Lothian, also makes the world’s most advanced bionic hand, the i-Limb.
Via Daily Mail