Sunday, May 12, 2013

I-Limb Ultra: Prosthetic Hand Controlled By iPhone App


picture of patrick kane holding an object with i-limb

Someone once sad ‘there’s an app for that,’ and they weren’t wrong! In today’s society, everyday life is being made easier by apps on smart phones which can do anything from letting us check our bank balance on the move to helping us avoid the traffic on the school run. But the category that has shown the biggest boom in downloads are the medical apps. These range from apps that can help patients to control their long term illnesses, to apps that can allow doctors to visualise their patient’s x-ray radiographs on the move. 

picture of i-limb's iphone appOne app that has made a big difference to patient’s lives is the iBGStar Diabetes Manager, and other
apps like it. They are used by diabetic patients to measure their blood sugar levels and keep track of previous reading to ensure they have good control over their condition. This is not only easier for the patient than the old ‘diary’ method of recording their blood sugars, but it can help their doctors to see how treatment is working for their patient and whether it needs to be changed.

picture of patrick kane holding an object with i-limbThe award for the most innovative and life changing app must go to the i-Limb Ultra from Touch Bionics: the app is connected to a bionic prosthetic hand via Bluetooth and users can select different ‘grips’ for any specific tasks they need to do. Sounds like something out of a movie, right? That’s what 16 year old Patrick Kane thought when he was fitted with the bionic hand. He lost his
hand as a baby due to meningococcal septicaemia, but because of this revolutionary new device he is able to live a normal life again, something that we often take for granted. The hand allows Patrick to carry out movements that are so precise they have not been possible with a normal prosthetic in the past: he can now hold a glass, pick up a piece of paper and tie his shoelaces with the touch of a button on his iPhone.

diagram showing how the i-limb works


picture of i-limb's iphone appThe limb can be controlled by electrical signals in muscles as well as by the iPhone, but this does take some practice to master as Patrick has already learned: "Controlling the hand feels very natural, although it does take a bit longer to learn how to use the automatic grips and gestures, so it was very useful to be able to work with the Touch Bionics therapist on these skills."

This innovation is a huge step for people like Patrick. At the moment the limb is still very expensive, between £30,000 and £80,000, but this technology means that in the not so distant future people that have lost a limb will be able to have the same quality of life as those who haven’t been so unlucky.





This article was written by Niqui Stubbs, a 4th year medical student with a love of gadgets and technology. She has worked with people who have lost a limb and knows the huge impact a bionic limb like this can have on someone’s life.

3 comments:

  1. This is really an amazing technology. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. This is something never thought of, didn't knew that iPhone technology has advanced upto this extent. Hand controlled in this manner with an iPhone app would be like a dream come true for many people who have lost their hands.

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  3. WOw it's really amazing technology. thanks for sharing.

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