A British woman has been able to ride a bike for the first time after being fitted with what has been described as the world’s most life-like bionic hand.
Nicky Ashwell, 29, from London, can now carry out tasks with both hands for the first time, but said it is the little things she can now do that surprise her the most, such as being able to carry her purse at the same time as holding her boyfriend’s hand.
Ashwell, who was born without a right hand, had previously used a cosmetic prosthetic that she was not able to move.
Now she has been fitted with an anatomically accurate hand developed by prosthetic experts Steeper, described by the company as a bionic breakthrough that uses Formula 1 technology to deliver an ‘unrivalled level of precision and natural movements’.
The hand, which weighs about the same as a bar of chocolate, has small proportions that have been specifically designed with women and teenagers in mind and is built around an accurate skeletal structure with miniaturised components designed to provide the most true-to-life movements.
Ashwell is now getting used to being able to carry out everyday activities, such as using cutlery and opening her purse, that most people take for granted.
The product manager at an online fashion forecasting and trend service said: ‘When I first tried the bebionic small hand, it was an exciting and strange feeling – it immediately opened up so many more possibilities for me.
‘I realised that I had been making life challenging for myself when I didn’t need to.
‘The movements now come easily and look natural.’
She was fitted with the hand at the private London Prosthetics Centre.
Ted Varley, technical director at Steeper, said: ‘Looking to the future, there’s a trend of technology getting more intricate. Steeper has embraced this and created a smaller hand with advanced technology that is suitable for women and teenagers.
‘An accurate skeletal structure was firstly developed, with the complex technology then specifically developed to fit within this in order to maintain anatomical accuracy. In other myoelectric hands the technology is developed first, at the expense of the life-likeness.’
The hand acts as a bionic extension of the arm and took seven years to develop.
Unlike conventional prosthetic hands, which may use a hook, the bebionic hand uses sensors triggered by the user’s muscle movements that connect to individual motors in each finger and microprocessors.
The technology comprises a unique system that tracks and senses each finger through its every move – mimicking the functions of a real hand.
The hand, which weighs about 390 grams, is 165 millimetres from base to middle fingertip – the size of an average woman’s hand – and contains 337 mechanical parts.
It is strong enough to handle up to 45 kilograms – about the same as 25 bricks – and has 14 grip patterns and hand positions to allow a range of precision movements.