The Hero Arm is one of the most popular bionic hands/arms on the market due to its affordability, attractiveness, and excellent track record.
What’s On This Page?
- A Quick Look at the Hero Arm
- Grip Patterns & Control System
- Thumb Rotation
- Proportional Control
- Sensory Feedback
- Wrist Design
- Size & Weight
- Lift Capacity & Grip Strength
- Water and Dust Resistance
- Glove Options
- User Software
- Suitability for Above-the-Elbow Solutions
- Suitability for Children
- 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. Instead, it provides core myoelectric hand functionality using a proven design, all at 1/4 the price of top-tier hands. With over 50 swappable covers of many different styles and colors, it’s also one of the more attractive, personalized bionic limbs on the market.
We generally try to avoid introducing a bionic limb with a promotional video produced by the manufacturer but, in this case, we’re going to make an exception because we’ve gotten to know the interviewee of this next video via social media. Her online name is Bionic Bev. She is a very kind, helpful, and genuine person, and what she says in this video is exactly what she says online about the Hero Arm and its manufacturer, Open Bionics:
Bionic Bev isn’t alone. Other Hero Arm customers are equally enthusiastic. And even though we don’t yet have a large enough cohort to issue a formal report on the Hero Arm from our User Satisfaction Surveys, almost every participant so far has reported that they are either very happy or moderately happy with the device. None have reported being unhappy with it.
All of which sends a pretty strong signal: if you’re seeking the most advanced bionic hand features on the planet, the Hero Arm may not be for you. But if you’re an average user looking to perform activities of daily living (ADL), you should at the very least check it out.
Grip Patterns & Control System
The Hero Arm is controlled by a combination of myoelectric signals and manual adjustments.
The hand has six 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 on 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 Hero 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.
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.
However, the Hero Arm does offer a Freeze Mode that allows users to temporarily freeze the position of the hand by disabling muscle control. This prevents the user from accidentally sending an open signal to release the hand’s grip on an object.
The Hero Arm does not yet offer any sense of touch. The use of fingertip sensors to provide feedback on both contact and the amount of pressure being applied has increased in recent years — a trend that we expect to continue — so we’ll continue to monitor whether the Hero Arm eventually adopts this feature.
Users can manually adjust the Hero Arm’s wrist 180 degrees. The wrist cannot be extended upward or flexed downward.
Size & Weight
The Hero Arm comes in three different sizes.
The standard size Hero Arm weighs only 340 grams, which is quite light compared to most bionic hands.
Lift Capacity & Grip Strength
The Hero Arm has a lift capacity of 8 kg, which is on the lower end of the scale for myoelectric hands/arms currently 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. You can see this for yourself by checking out this link: 15 ways we tried to destroy our myoelectric prosthesis during testing [Part1].
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.
The expected lifespan for the battery is 1 year. This is covered by the Hero Arm’s standard warranty.
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 because it is not a component hand, i.e. it is built as one unit for below-the-elbow use.
Suitability for Children
The Hero Arm is not only suitable for children aged 8 and above; in many ways, it’s ideal because of its cool robotic appearance and popular theme-based covers.
This novel design approach has been so popular that it has led to the realization that prostheses are more than just artificial devices attached to one’s body. They can also be fun and as much a part of one’s style as clothes, shoes, or hairstyle.
For example, 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 has this feature become? 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:
Finally, the Hero Arm can be resized for children as they grow at a much lower cost than purchasing a new device.
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, in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, customers can purchase the Hero Arm directly from Open Bionics’ clinic for prices ranging from £9,499 to £12,699 (or roughly $12,400 to $16,500 US at an exchange rate of 1.30), depending on the selected package. At this same clinic, you can also purchase the Hero Arm with a combination of a downpayment and a monthly payment for 36 months.
For a complete list of prices for other bionic hands, please see our Bionic Hand Price List.
The Hero Arm is currently available in the USA, UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
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.
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!
The other advantage that the Hero Arm has over many solutions is that the entire unit, i.e. the hand, socket, sensors, etc., is all assembled by Open Bionics. The socket is custom fit by a team that has a lot of experience fitting below-the-elbow solutions. It also comes with an adjustable BOA Fit System to ensure a proper fit on days when the size and shape of the residual limb may change due to factors like temperature. We don’t know for certain yet, but we suspect that this focus on perfect fit is one of the reasons why user satisfaction ratings are so high for the Hero Arm.
The other reason is how it makes users feel, which is captured in this final video (and repeated over and over again online):
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.