Tech

UK woman fitted with world’s ‘most lifelike’ bionic hand

At the age of 29, Nicky Ashwell has only just started riding a bike. 

It's not for lack of trying: a congenital amputee, she was born without a right hand. Having grown up learning to carry out tasks with her left hand, the 29-year-old Londoner has finally been able to ditch her non-moveable cosmetic prosthetic to become the first UK user of the world's most lifelike bionic hand.

Measuring 165mm from base to middle fingertip, the bebionic small of prosthetic experts Steeper contains 337 mechanical parts, a motor per finger and a raft of microprocessors, providing lifelike movements and 14 complex grip positions. 

Ashwell, a product manager at an online fashion forecasting and trend service, has had to learn to adjust to using the bebionic small, which registers muscle movements in the user's arm in order to change between grip positions.

"I realised that I had been making life challenging for myself when I didn’t need to," she said. "The movements now come easily and look natural; I keep finding myself being surprised by the little things, like being able to carry my purse while holding my boyfriend’s hand. I’ve also been able to do things never before possible like riding a bike and lifting weights."

Weighing around 390g, the advanced prosthetic is able to handle 45kg, with a series of magnets helping balance and control the finer movements of the fingers.

Ted Varley, technical director at Steeper, believes that prosthetic technology is only set to get more intricate.

"An accurate skeletal structure was firstly developed, with the complex technology then specifically developed to fit within this in order to maintain anatomical accuracy," he said, in regards to the bebionic small, which was built specifically for women, children and men with smaller frames. "In other myoelectric hands the technology is developed first, at the expense of the lifelikeness."

Technology is awesome.

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