Ottobock’s bebionic hand was originally launched in 2010. With 14 grip patterns and a carrying capacity of 45 kgs, it is in the upper third of myoelectric hands in these two categories. Its most compelling feature is an ability to automatically increase its grip strength if it senses that an object is slipping from its grasp. On the downside, it requires manual thumb rotation and there are rumblings about its durability.
A Quick Look at the Bebionic Hand
It is rare that we get a video review of a myoelectric hand from someone other than the manufacturer. In this case, we have the added benefit of hearing from Christoffer Lindhe. Christoffer is not only a long-time prosthesis user. He also owns his own prosthetics company, which makes him pretty much an all-round expert. Here, he gives us an honest assessment of his bebionic hand.
Bebionic’s Key Features
Grip Patterns & Control System
The bebionic hand offers 14 different grips.
These are divided into two groups: primary and secondary. The user can switch between groups by pressing a button.
Additionally, some grips are only available if the thumb is in an opposed or non-opposed position.
Users can rotate between individual grips by triggering two open signals in succession. Open and close signals are detected via two EMG sensors in a standard dual-site setup. However, the number and placement of sensors can be altered by a prosthetist, as can the signal to switch grips.
Here is Ottobock’s demonstration of the bebionic hand’s 14 grips:
Manual Thumb Rotation
The fact that the bebionic hand requires the user to manually rotate the thumb into an opposed or non-opposed position is not a major drawback in most circumstances. To change tasks often requires some form of preparation with myoelectric hands, such as selecting an appropriate grip. In most cases, users intuitively rotate the bebionic’s thumb into place with their free hand.
But there are situations where this is not convenient, such as when both hands are needed for a task. Also, this is an inferior solution compared to hands like the i-Limb Quantum, the TASKA hand, and Ottobock’s own Michelangelo Hand, which offer electronically powered thumb rotation. And it’s two technological steps behind the Dexus Prosthetic Hand from BrainCo, which offers independent thought control over its electronically powered thumb.
Another concern with bebionic’s thumb is the need for a technician to adjust it before it can participate in certain grips. This adjustment is necessary in order for the thumb to correctly line up with opposing fingers.
Proportional Speed Control
Proportional speed control refers to the ability of users to control the speed and force of a bionic hand’s grip by increasing or decreasing the speed of the muscle movement needed to trigger a close signal.
For example, to pick up something fragile like an egg, the user must trigger a much slower close signal in the residual limb.
This a proven approach, but it is not only one. By comparison, Psyonic’s Ability Hand uses pressure sensors in its fingertips to provide feedback to the user through vibrations in the residual limb. The user can then adjust his or her grip strength accordingly. Using this approach, a user can pick up an egg shell, without breaking it, while blindfolded!
We believe that sensory feedback is the way to go and expect most bionic hands to follow suit over time.
What’s not to love? When the bebionic hand senses that an object is slipping from its grasp, it automatically increases its grip strength.
This is similar, in some ways, to how some microprocessor knees sense a stumble and automatically adjust to avoid a fall. We believe that this type of automatic intelligence should be adopted by all bionic limbs, especially where safety is concerned.
Again, what’s not to love? The bebionic hand can lift up to 45 kgs. Individual fingers can lift 25 kg, and the hand’s knuckles can support up to 90 kg when pushing off from a seated position.
Only the i-Limb Quantum with titanium fingers offers a superior lift capacity of 90 kg.
We have picked up rumblings of durability issues with the bebionic hand. Most are merely passing references in videos like the first video in this post.
In the few cases where formal studies describe durability complaints from users, the bebionic hand is often among the culprits and seldom exempted from criticism, unlike its Ottobock cousin, the Michelangelo Hand.
However, we should note that durability, especially broken fingers, has been a long-running problem with many myoelectric hands. It has only been in recent years that we’ve seen an increased emphasis on finger pliancy and durability.
Put another way, we don’t want to suggest that the bebionic hand is the only one with durability issues. But we do think it’s important for potential buyers to be aware, in advance, of its limits.
Again, Christoffer Lindhe puts all of this in context in this video as he describes the different prosthetic arms and attachments that he uses and why. Note, in particular, that he relies on his bebionic hand for light-duty activities only.
As always, obtaining price information on bionic arms & hands is mysteriously difficult.
However, based on multiple sources, a complete solution involving a bebionic hand for below-the-elbow limb differences will cost between $30,000 & $35,000 USD.
What do we mean by complete? That question is best answered by this informative video. One note of caution beforehand. If, like us, you want those with limb differences to have access to the best technologies, you may find the prices for some parts outrageous.
To see how the bebionic hand’s price compares to other bionic hands, check out our Bionic Hand Price List.
Considerations Before Buying the Bebionic Hand
To be honest, it is difficult for us to recommend the bebionic hand in its current configuration. It needs to update its thumb to automatic electronic positioning and enhance its durability before it can compete with two bionic hands in a similar price range: Psyonic’s Ability Hand and the Taska hand.
This is not to say that the bebionic hand is a lost cause. If you want to purchase an Ottobock myolelectric hand and you can’t afford the Michelangelo Hand, we think you should wait for the next generation of the bebionic hand.
For more information on upper limb bionics, see Understanding Bionic Arms & Hands.
For a list of competitor devices, see All Bionic Hands.
If you are shopping for a bionic hand, do not miss our article on Myoelectric 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 Ottobock Upper Limb Prosthetics.