Ottobock MyoHand VariPlus Speed

Ottobock MyoHand VariPlus Speed Feature Image

The Ottobock MyoHand VariPlus Speed hand is nearly identical to its SensorHand Speed cousin but without the advanced auto-grasp and flexi-grip features.

What’s On This Page?

A Quick Look at the VariPlus Speed

It is not easy to find one video that provides a complete demonstration of the VariPlus, so we’re going to use a few short videos. First, here is what the hand looks like (you can stop watching this video after 20 seconds):

As you can see, this is not a multi-articulating bionic hand, which is why we list it as an Electric Terminal Device (ETD).

However, it can be made to look like a natural hand by using a glove, as shown in this short overview video of what Ottobock refers to as its “MyoBock System Electric Hands”. The section on the VariPlus starts at 0:44:

The most common question we get about this device is: why was it created? From our standpoint, it fills a niche. Multi-articulating hands — what most people think of as a modern bionic hand — would be the ideal solution if they could perform every task desired by end-users. But the current versions of these hands fall far short of this goal.

One area of deficiency is speed. Most multi-articulating bionic hands can be a bit slow to respond to user commands (the Michelangelo and the Psyonic Ability Hand are two exceptions to this). With its simpler design, the VariPlus opens and closes at a speed equivalent to the average speed of a natural hand, which makes it more efficient and intuitive to use.

Another problem with multi-articulating hands is durability. Although they have been improved in recent years, they still break too frequently. That’s why there’s still a market for rugged electric grippers and hooks. But those devices cannot be made to look like a natural hand. The VariPlus Speed can be made to look that way while still offering improved durability.

Multi-articulating bionic hands are more complex. For example, they offer multiple grip patterns, i.e. different combinations of fingers and the thumb close depending on the selected grip. This often requires users to switch to the appropriate grip before attempting a task. The VariPlus is simpler. Its only grip pattern is to open and close all three digits in unison. This means that the VariPlus cannot perform certain tasks very well, such as typing on a keyboard or operating a mouse. But it can quickly grasp most objects, which is by far the most common task for bionic hands. Also, because of its simplicity, it can be more easily used by those with only one suitable site for a myoelectric sensor.

So, summarizing this, if you want a device that can look like a hand, can securely grasp objects, and is simpler, faster, and more durable than a multi-articulating hand (but less capable for certain tasks), that’s why the VariPlus Speed exists.

Notice, however, that we did not mention price. While it’s true that the VariPlus is less expensive than Ottobock’s multi-articulating hands such as the bebionic and Michelangelo, it is still more expensive than some of the newer bionic hands like the TrueLimb, Hero Arm, and Zeus Hand. We do not think this is by design. Newer bionic limb companies are simply pushing prices downward, especially in the lower and middle price tiers.

VariPlus Speed Key Features

Grip Patterns & Control System

As mentioned, the VariPlus has only one grip pattern — opening and closing all three digits — so it does not require a complex control system.

However, it does offer numerous methods of control, including the option to use two electrodes or just one, which may be very important for some end-users depending on the remaining musculature in the residual limb. It can also be controlled using a transducer, an Ottobock switch, or a combination of a switch and one electrode.

The VariPlus does not offer the advanced gripping features of its SensorHand cousin, such as:

  • auto-grasp, which automatically tightens the grip if the device senses that an object is slipping;
  • flexi-grip, which allows the user to passively change the position of an object being held without having to use a myoelectric signal to open and then re-close the device;

However, this is not so much a feature deficiency as it is a matter of personal preference. Some users simply prefer to exert manual control over their terminal device.

Thumb Rotation

The VariPlus thumb does not rotate, as this action is not part of its only grip pattern.

Proportional Speed Control

The VariPlus offers proportional speed control based on the strength of the user’s muscle signal, which is how most bionic hands handle this issue.

One of the features that makes the VariPlus unique is its ability to open and close quickly, as shown in this short, older video (this is actually the SensorHand but the performance is identical):

The only multi-articulating bionic hand that we’ve seen do something similar is Psyonic’s Ability Hand, as shown here:

Sensory Feedback

The VariPlus does not provide any sensory feedback.

Wrist Design

Wrist options for the VariPlus include a plain lamination ring or a Quick-Disconnect Wrist with either passive or electrical wrist rotation.

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Lift Capacity & Grip Strength

We have not been able to find any information on the VariPlus’s maximum lift capacity.

We do know that it has a maximum grip strength of 100 Newtons, which is quite high. Having said that, grip force tends to be measured in different ways by different companies, so comparisons between the grip strengths of competing devices may not be reliable.

Durability

We rely mostly on the results of our User Satisfaction Survey for an objective assessment of a bionic device’s durability. Because this article and the associated survey are quite new, it will likely be a few months before we have sufficient participants to publish results.

That having been said, it appears to us that the VariPlus Speed has been designed with ruggedness in mind. Certainly, having fewer “fingers”, motors, and moving parts should reduce the risk of breakage.

Water and Dust Resistance

The VariPlus is not water-proof or dust-proof. A glove is required in situations where the hand is exposed to these elements, and the glove must not have any holes in it.

Glove Options

Ottobock offers a variety of glove options available in 3 sizes and 18 different colors.

Ottobock SensorHand Glove Options

Batteries

The preferred battery for the VariPlus is the Ottobock EnergyPack (757B20). Depending on the hand’s usage, this battery should last a full day and be charged each night. Fully recharging the battery when completely drained requires around 3.5 hours.

The estimated service life for this battery is two years.

Other Ottobock batteries can be used but may result in some usage restrictions.

User Software

Due to its simplicity, the VariPlus does not require a user software application.

Suitability for Above-the-Elbow Solutions

The VariPlus can be combined with electric elbows and the aforementioned wrist components to form an above-the-elbow solution.

We have not been able to find a formal list of compatible electric elbows or any official restrictions against the use of the hand with non-Ottobock elbows. We do know that, within the Ottobock family of devices, the VariPlus can be successfully paired with the DynamicArm.

Price

Based on our information, the VariPlus Speed should sell for between $20,000 and $30,000 US for a typical setup, including all socket and prosthetist fees. Because it lacks the advanced gripping features of the SensorHand Speed, it should sell for about 8 % less than that device, putting it closer to $20,000 than $30,000.

For a complete list of prices for upper-limb ETDs, please see our ETD price list.

Warranty

The VariPlus offers a 2-year standard warranty against defects in materials or workmanship under normal use.

There is no extended warranty option.

Note, Ottobock recommends that the VariPlus should be serviced once every year but this does not appear to be required by the warranty.

User Feedback Survey & Results

Survey

Are you currently using the VariPlus Speed or have you used it in the past?

If so, why not help others by sharing your experiences in this quick survey:

Results

We do not yet have a sufficient number of survey participants to publish fair and accurate results for the VariPlus.

As soon as we do, we’ll update this section.

Considerations Before Buying the VariPlus Speed

We think that the VariPlus Speed is an interesting option for those who want a simpler, more rugged terminal device that still resembles a hand (i.e. with the glove on). We just wish it cost less given the emergence of increasingly capable multi-articulating bionic hands in the $10,000 to $20,000 price range.

Otherwise, we are reserving judgment until we hear back from end-users through our User Satisfaction Survey.

For a list of competitor devices, see all upper-limb ETDs.

For a comprehensive description of all current upper-limb technologies, devices, and research, see our complete guide.

Click here for more information on Ottobock Upper-Limb Prosthetics.