New control mechanisms give prothetic hand more functionality

Prosthetic limb maker Touch Bionics has launched a number of innovative new products that it believes will help people improve their daily lives.

Touch Bionics is a provider of world-leading prosthetic technologies designed to achieve positive outcomes for people with upper limb deficiencies. The Scottish-based innovator was the first company to develop an electrically powered prosthetic hand with five independently-powered fingers and the company continues to be a pioneer in hi-tech upper limb prosthetic solutions. Among the company's new range is a blue-tooth chip which activates the company's bionic hands and fingers into a specific grip. Called grip chips, these are bluetooth-enabled devices for users to assign a grip to an object and assist in performing the activities of day-to-day living. Those chips can be placed by users in places around their homes or at work where different grips are needed for regular tasks which may include getting cutlery, lifting a kettle or using a computer. While users will still be able to programme their prosthetics manually, the so-called grip chips are said to offer a quick and easy alternative. Bertolt Meyer, a wearer of the i-limb ultra revolution, said: "As a long-time prosthetic user, grip chips are a significant advance in prosthesis control and grip activation. "I am able to easily and precisely switch between desired grips based on what I wish to accomplish." At the OTWorld 2014 International Congress in Leipzig recently, Touch Bionics also announced a new skin-like covering, called i-limb skin active TS, which lets people manipulate touchscreen devices. The Livingston, West Lothian, company suggested that this would be particularly useful for double amputees. Upgrades and improvements to the range of apps that are used to control its products were also released, including compatibility with devices running the Android software operating system. Previously the apps, called 'my grips biosim' and 'my i-limb', were only available to those using Apple technology. Touch Bionics claims that the new apps offer a potential to add 12 custom grips, which in turn means users can have up to 36 different options to position their prosthetic. Ian Stevens, chief executive of the company, said: "Our grip chips, my grips and i-limb skin active TS are innovative new products that provide significant opportunities for i-limb wearers to precisely control and utilise their bionic hands. Patients using these technologies can expect to achieve significant improvements in terms of self-esteem and the ability to perform activities of daily living." A spin-out from the UK's National Health Service, Touch Bionics was founded by inventor David Gow and is funded and supported by Archangel Informal Investment and Scottish Enterprise. More than 4,000 Touch Bionics devices are in use around the world, with 95% of its sales made outside the UK. The Scottish teenager Patrick Kane became the first person to be fitted with the i-limb ultra-revolution hand product in April last year. That came as revenue grew from a figure of £10.02 million to £12.3m. The company's products include electronic prosthetic hand and prosthetic finger solutions, as well as passive silicone prostheses that more closely match the natural appearance of the wearer.