Mary Altaffer/AP
Iraq war veteran Sgt. Juan Arredondo, one of the first recipients of a bionic hand with
independently moving fingers called the i-Limb, shows off his bionic hand during an
interview Monday, July 23, 2007 in New York. (AP)

Bionic Hand Gives Amputees Fresh Outlook

June 11, 2008 07:45 AM
by Shannon Firth
The Scottish makers of the i-Limb hand received the U.K.’s highest award for new technology, the MacRobert Award, in London on Monday.

30-Second Summary

A bionic hand invented by Touch Bionics, a Scottish technology company, won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award. The Scottish team received the award and 50,000 pounds on June 9, at the Academy Awards Dinner in London.

Stuart Mead, CEO of Touch Bionics, explained two crucial features of the i-Limb hand: “The first is that we put a motor into each finger, which means that each finger is independently driven and can articulate. The second is that the thumb is rotatable through 90 degrees, in the same way as our thumbs are.”

After Touch Bionics’ purchase of the U.S. cosmesis company Livingskin, the i-Limb hand both looked and functioned as a real hand would. According to the Touch Bionics Web site, controls within the i-Limb hand receive electric signals sent from the muscles in the living portion of the individual’s limb. The signals are transmitted through electrodes on the skin’s surface.

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Karl D. Chapin, a paratrooper who lost his hand in Vietnam, said, “Eighty-five percent of amputees lose lower limbs, and as a result, the lion’s share of research and development is devoted to lower limbs.” Chapin believes the i-Limb technology will soon include other prosthetics.

The i-Limb hand costs about $55,000 or more depending on where it’s connected. I-limb hands contain rechargeable batteries, and are not waterproof. At the moment, the hands are available in medium and large sizes.

Headline Links: ‘Bionic hand wins top tech prize’

Background: History of the i-Limb hand; MacRobert Award winners and finalists


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