The Hero Arm from Open Bionics is one of the most popular below-the-elbow bionic arms on the market. This is due to its affordability, its modern, robotic appearance, and also because it seems to deliver exactly what it promises.
What’s On This Page?
- A Quick Look at the Hero Arm
- Grip Patterns & Control System
- Thumb Rotation
- Proportional Speed Control
- Sensory Feedback
- Wrist Design
- Lift Capacity & Grip Strength
- Water and Dust Resistance
- Glove Options
- User Software
- Suitability for Above-the-Elbow Solutions
- The Emotional Impact of Getting a Hero Arm
- User Feedback Survey & Results
- Considerations Before Buying a Hero Arm
- Related Information
A Quick Look at the Hero Arm
The Hero Arm doesn’t aim to be the most technologically advanced bionic arm/hand on the market. It doesn’t offer an auto-positioned thumb, powered wrist options, or automatic grip adjustments like Ottobock’s Michelangelo Hand or Ossur’s i-Limb.
Instead, the Hero Arm provides core myoelectric hand functionality using a proven design, all at 1/4 the price of top-tier hands.
Based on user reactions on social media, this bionic hand seems to have hit its mark.
Although the following video is a bit older and uses a test hand, it does a great job of showing the variety of tasks that the Hero Arm can perform.
Grip Patterns & Control System
The Hero Arm is controlled by a combination of myoelectric signals and manual adjustments.
The hand has multiple preset grip patterns that support the most common hand movements. You can also manually rotate the wrist and explicitly position the electronic thumb.
To open or close the hand, you simply use the same muscle actions you would to close/curl or open/extend a natural hand:
EMG sensors in the Hero Arm detect these muscle movements and translate them into corresponding close or open actions in the bionic hand. The resulting finger movements depend on the selected grip pattern.
Here is a short demonstration of some of these functions:
Open Bionics has produced numerous short videos demonstrating how to use the Hero Arm for different tasks. You can view these videos at the Open Bionics’ YouTube channel. As the videos demonstrate, once the user is familiar with switching between grip configurations and explicitly positioning the wrist and/or thumb, using the arm becomes quite intuitive.
Some myoelectric hands, such as Ottobock’s bebionic Hand, require the user to manually position the thumb, typically with one’s free hand. The position of the thumb then dictates the availability of certain grip patterns.
The Hero Arm falls in between these two designs. The user can either manually position the thumb or electronically position it through an explicit myoelectric signal.
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Proportional Speed Control
The speed and force of the Hero Arm’s grip are determined by the degree to which the control muscles are tensed. Tensing the muscles gently and slowly makes it possible to handle small or delicate objects without breaking them. Tensing the muscles quickly and with more force allows the user to grip objects more firmly.
The Hero Arm does not offer an auto-grip feature like that of the bebionic hand or the i-Limb. A bionic hand with this feature senses that an object is slipping from its grip and automatically increases its grip force.
To our knowledge, the Hero Arm does not offer any sense of touch. The use of sensor pressures to provide feedback on both contact and pressure has been increasing in recent years.
Users can manually adjust the Hero Arm’s wrist 180 degrees. The wrist cannot be extended upward or flexed downward.
Lift Capacity & Grip Strength
The Hero Arm has a lift capacity of 8 kg, which is the lightest of all myoelectric hands/arms on the market.
It is clearly not designed for heavy-duty activities.
Despite its low lift capacity, the Hero Arm is made of Nylon 12 — the same material used in ski boots — and is quite rugged. Despite searching far and wide, we’ve been unable to find any complaints about its durability.
Water and Dust Resistance
The Hero Arm has an IP rating of only 20, which is among the lowest for all bionic arms/hands. This means that the Hero Arm can withstand brief splashes of water but is not water-resistant.
It is also not dust-resistant in that it only offers protection against objects greater than 12mm in size, which is significantly larger than all dust particles.
There are no glove options with the Hero Arm.
The Hero Arm’s battery is designed to last one full day depending on usage.
We have not been able to determine the time required to fully charge the battery once it is completely drained but the recommended practice is to charge the battery each night.
There does not appear to be any user software for the Hero Arm.
Suitability for Above-the-Elbow Solutions
The Hero Arm is not currently suitable for above-the-elbow solutions.
According to our information, the Hero Arm sells for between $10,000 and $20,000 US for a typical below-the-elbow solution, including all prosthetist fees.
For a complete list of prices for other bionic hands, please see our Bionic Hand Price List.
The Hero Arm comes with a standard 12-month warranty, which guarantees against any manufacturing or parts defects resulting from normal use.
The user can pay to extend this warranty for up to five years.
The Emotional Impact of Getting a Hero Arm
One of the great contributions that Open Bionics has made to overcoming limb differences is the realization that prostheses are more than just artificial devices attached to one’s body. They can also be hi-tech, ultra-cool, and as much a part of one’s style as clothes, shoes, or hairstyle.
Note the fondness this young boy expresses for his new Star Wars covers…
…and the difference both the Hero Arm’s function and appearance have made to this young girl’s life:
How important is this new emphasis on the attractiveness of a prosthesis? Children who previously felt isolated or self-conscious because of their limb difference appear to be much more confident after receiving a Hero Arm. Instead of being teased or bullied by classmates, they are now being admired. Some classmates are even asking how they can get a bionic arm!
In fact, this emotional benefit is likely so important that we’d like to see public and private insurance take it into account when determining coverage policies. For more information on this issue, see The Revolution in Prosthetic Aesthetics.
Of course, this isn’t just about appearance. Note the new capabilities that the Hero Arm has given this young artist:
User Feedback Survey & Results
Are you currently using the Hero Arm or have you used it in the past?
If so, why not help others by sharing your experiences in this quick survey:
We do not yet have a sufficient number of survey participants to publish fair and accurate results for the Hero Arm.
As soon as we do, we’ll update this section.
Considerations Before Buying the Hero Arm
First, if you want to buy a myoelectric arm for a child, we think the Hero Arm should be at the top of your list. Open Bionics clearly understands the needs of children with limb differences. They have an array of Disney-themed covers. They sell the Hero Arm for one of the lowest prices on the market. And they even have a special re-fit program that resizes the arm as a child grows. No one else in the market caters to children like this.
If you’re an adult with a limb difference, you have to consider several factors. If you need to pick up objects heavier than 8 kg or operate machinery with your myoelectric hand, the Hero Arm isn’t for you. If you’re going to use it for rough outdoor work or even on a shop or manufacturing floor, the TASKA hand is probably the better choice.
But if you’re going to use it for light tasks and you don’t need all the advanced features of leading myoelectric arms/hands, then you may well find that the Hero Arm suits you perfectly — especially for the price!
For a list of competitor devices, see all bionic hands.
For a comprehensive description of all current upper-limb technologies, devices, and research, see our complete guide.
If you are shopping for a bionic hand, do not miss our article on bionic hand control systems. Getting this part of your bionic system right is probably the biggest single ingredient in your long-term satisfaction.
Click here for more information on Open Bionics.