Bionic Limb Research News July 04, 2021

Bionic Limbs Research News July 04 2021

As part of our mission to help those with limb differences learn about bionic limb technology, we periodically report on the latest research news. Below are the most interesting stories that we uncovered over the past two weeks.

Bionic Hands with Intelligent Grip Capabilities

If you have been following our articles on bionic hands, many of you will know that the industry still suffers from user control limitations. For example, most bionic hands may still force you to do the following just to grip an object:

  1. Choose the set of grips that you want to use.
  2. Use specific muscle contractions to rotate through the set of grips until you find the desired grip.
  3. Use a specific muscle contraction to close the hand around the object.

Imagine doing that every time you want to grab something, especially when you have no sensory feedback and must guide all your actions visually!

Most modern bionic hands do try to help where they can. For example, to grasp different-shaped objects, they use adaptive grips, where each digit continues to close until it encounters sufficient resistance. This is what allows a simple fist grip to properly grasp a wine glass even though it is wide at the top (i.e. the bowl) but narrow at the stem.

Adam’s Hand takes this a step further (we have a full article coming out on this device shortly). It does away with grip selection entirely and lets the hand decide how it will close based on the shape of the object. Here are some examples:

This is appealing because it eliminates the need to select a specific grip, but it does raise several questions that BionIT Labs is in the process of answering for us. For example, how do you get Adam’s Hand to form grips that can’t be determined by the shape of an object they encounter, such as when you want to type on a keyboard?

Others have mounted a small camera on a bionic hand and used artificial intelligence to identify the objects or the nature of the objects that it encounters. They then use this information to automatically select an appropriate grip. Here’s an example of this using a prototype from Newcastle University:

This next example does something similar, but instead of mounting a camera on the hand, they use smart glasses:

We don’t know much about this new company yet. They just popped onto our radar this week. But we are reaching out through every available channel to find out more!

Advances in Osseointegration

If you’ve read our main article on Osseointegration for Bionic Limbs, you know that we’re pretty candid about the risks posed by this procedure. We absorbed most of our caution from Part 2 of our 4-part interview with Dr. Laurent Frossard, titled Disadvantages of Osseointegration.

However, like Dr. Frossard himself, we actually have a very positive view of the technology. Anything that gives amputees an opportunity for an increased quality of life is always a valuable option.

We’re especially excited about the potential of combining osseointegration with implanted myoelectric sensors for control and neural interfaces for sensory feedback, all as part of one integrated solution. Integrum’s e-Opra System does just this:

Integrum e-Opra Implant System

Our problem was that we hadn’t found any good videos of this system in use. Well, it turns out that this was our fault because there is a decent introductory video:

Now compare the level of arm/hand use in this video to the video we showed you in our last bionic limb research news snapshot — part of a study that revealed a disappointing use of bionic hands for daily tasks:

Of course, it’s not possible to draw any hard conclusions about a system like e-Opra versus traditional socket-based bionic arms based on a couple of videos. We need a formal scientific study for that. We do have this study, which was published in July 2020, but the test group was only three individuals. We need to see a study involving a much larger group of participants, perhaps using the methodology of the study in the preceding video, before we’ll be convinced.

Still, this is one solution that should be on your watchlist.

More About Bionic Eyes

We recently began exploring bionic eye technologies as a precursor for opening that section of our website (we eventually plan to cover all aspects of human bionics). Because we don’t yet have a structure for that information, and because many amputees have diabetes, which can cause serious eye diseases, we’ve decided to include some of this information in these research news snapshots.

Here is an excellent video published this past week that brings you up-to-date on the current state of bionic eye technologies:

In case you missed our earlier post, here is a look at research on more advanced capabilities:

Related Information

Are you interested in bionic limb research? If so, see our complete selection of research articles.

For a comprehensive description of all current upper-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Arms & Hands.

For a comprehensive description of all current lower-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Legs & Feet.