Category: BeBionic (RSL Steeper)

Der Cybathlon 2016 wurde bei den Armprothesen von einem Mann mit "Hook" gewonnen [#research #surprise #bodypowered]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Der Cybathlon 2016 wurde bei den Armprothesen von einem Mann mit "Hook" gewonnen [#research #surprise #bodypowered]; published October 11, 2016, 18:34; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6670.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Der Cybathlon 2016 wurde bei den Armprothesen von einem Mann mit "Hook" gewonnen [#research #surprise #bodypowered]}}, month = {October},year = {2016}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6670}}


Ich weiss jetzt nicht, ob Sie das mitbekommen haben. Und ob Sie begreifen was da passiert ist.

Aber am Cybathlon 2016 (Cybathlon, ETH, NCCR Robotics), einer Art Behindertenschaulaufen ohne besonderen  wissenschaftlichen aber dafuer sehr publikumswirksamen Hintergrund [wieso/was:link] mit mehrheitlich durch das Patronat der ETH suggerierten "High-Tech-Hintergrund" gewann ein Mann das Armprothesenrennen, der einen "Hook" trug [siehe detaillierte Griffanalyse, link]. Arschcool, mit 67 ein Senior, dort auch klar der älteste.

Fehlerfrei und schnell.


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The Cybathlon as iconic Trash Culture modern day Circus show: arm amputees, arms race and technical considerations regarding specific applicants [proper research domain assignment, pre-race evaluation of critical check points, detailed in-race grip analysis, cultural domain considerations, gonzo race report]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The Cybathlon as iconic Trash Culture modern day Circus show: arm amputees, arms race and technical considerations regarding specific applicants [proper research domain assignment, pre-race evaluation of critical check points, detailed in-race grip analysis, cultural domain considerations, gonzo race report]; published October 7, 2016, 17:28; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6378.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The Cybathlon as iconic Trash Culture modern day Circus show: arm amputees, arms race and technical considerations regarding specific applicants [proper research domain assignment, pre-race evaluation of critical check points, detailed in-race grip analysis, cultural domain considerations, gonzo race report]}}, month = {October},year = {2016}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6378}}

Executive summary

  • Arm amputation is more a social (and complex) than just a manual handicap in many daily situations. Therefore many approaches to dealing with it are social and socially motivated, including hand color. You did land on a right below elbow amputation website, like, apparently, so that is the angle from which this comes. Also we made sure this is the title of this website. Different aspects may apply to higher level and bilateral arm amputation, but that is not the target of this website.
  • Conversely, most actually manual problems are not major. What heavily impacts many unilateral arm amputees after 5-8 years or maybe after 10 -20 years, is the impact of overuse of the intact arm and asymmetry related problems. A rational approach to prevent that is to use prosthetic arms that excel particularly at the heavy to extreme range of physical exposure. Those are typically modern body powered arms. These use well established control principles, but can be made from very modern materials. They suffer from medial representations that are largely negative ("Captain Hook"). Myoelectric arms are termed "high tech" simply because they may contain a battery and motors, but they suffer from a battery of intractable or constrained problem combinations.
  • For that, the ETH has so far not been necessary to add to the field of prosthetic arms, but trash culture approaches have a lot going for them regardless of that. My own practical and pragmatic research (see also below) contains such elements and now, the ETH also is proud organizer of a Circus freak show (which in essence is an event that lacks academic approaches and reduces intellectual participation to staring).
  • Neither the ETH nor the NCCR Robotics ever managed to acknowledge that or develop even the tiniest solution to solve just about anything in that matter (remember the title of this page?). That is perfectly OK as quite possibly, myoelectric arms are uninteresting from an actual researcher point of view once one understands the full scope of problems, and body powered arms are uninteresting because their problems are a combination of mechanics, material science, and context dependent issues that usually require deep insights which is currently performed by a small relatively close knit international community of amputees, developers and researchers.
  • Given their academic background claims, ETH or NCCR based approaches could and should have focused on studying intricate differences and aspects of prosthetic arm success and failure during the Cybathlon competition in all situations, pre-race and in-race. I mean: if you claim you want to do, or push, research, better sit down and work on a really detailed introductory explanation to show that we all see how much you understand what detailed features we are all looking for. I am most definitely all for that, but I do not shy away from weird staring contest evaluations either. These define an amputee's daily reality more than you might like.
  • But to no surprise, the technical research representatives neither prepared, nor carried out, such, so any technical analysis of the race that then was presented to the public to actually increase some real understanding for the effectively present research problems and real world issues so it will never be possible in sufficient detail or write any great scientific paper about it. Or, not from how it looks now.
  • Thus, academically (not industrially, not as bystander, person that loves to stare at arm amputees or spectator), the event of the Cybathlon prosthetic arm race was a thoroughly missed opportunity if not a failure.
  • This does not mean that the Cybathlon as such was meaningless; it just showed that body powered technology (TRS, TRS prehensor) as very calmly and perfectly performed and carried out by a 67 year old man (Bob Radocy) that did not visibly hurry but chewed gum for the whole event left all "robotic" competition behind - while I had warned the organizers from a one-dimensional overly simplistic evaluation two years ago. I had always told them exactly what Claudia Breidbach said in her statement after the finals race: you cannot compare, across various different arm amputation with adapted different devices, what a good performance is. They knew as they had been extensively informed beforehand. The search for what prosthetic arms should be able to actually do well remains ongoing though, the odyssey apparently continues with a Cybathlon 2020.
  • And while any evidence based rational mind would now more than ever (a) want a body powered prosthesis and (b) further research on that type of prosthesis, it was the very clear aim by the organizers to not include these arms in the race at all, until I had imposed myself onto the organizers, had a very serious word with them and convinced them to admit also body powered arms which they did.
  • The Swiss National Foundation (SNF) is strongly advised to look into the intricate aspects of all failures of (a) research opportunities missed and (b) strategic solutions actually needed in prosthetic arm and hand field, (c) appoint very competent coordinators and advisors there and (d) not finance silly "competitions" such as this that do not further science at all or (e) finance more myoelectric nonsense.
  • All the same, the Cybathlon was a great experience in how ETH hype, tech media hype and gadget hand industry hype take a royal tanking against real life based real men, and, if you need a short but intensive read on the reasons why the myoelectric arms missed out today, check my Cybathlon Symposium scientific contribution, you will find there more relevant text than in many other places.
  • I do not hate myoelectric arms. Personally I must have invested more finances into my own myoelectric gadgets than into my body powered components. However, that does not make me blind, dumb or gadget happy. I still test, look, think and analyze. I still work on finding better ways, solutions, parts or usage tricks for both systems. But then, coming from an engineering perspective (funny you come here to read that) - finding the exact problem, identifying the exact issue, has been placed before being ablt to solving it. And the simple beauty of engineering is, that whatever your attempt at covering up your tricks, at the end of the day, the contraption either works, or it does not.
  • While Professor Riener verbally once (1) at the Cybathlon race itself mentioned the fact that cable powered technology won (we were there, see Gonzo report below), they made sure none of that leaked to the Swiss television, or BBC, or newspapers, or IEEE, or other press. They simply buried the fact that they were left eating dust by some very athletic older gentleman wearing a body powered prosthetic arm. Because that is like having someone in sandals and swim trunks run up on Mount Everest. They do not report that as it is seen as putting the other efforts to shame rather than being seen as someone, something, a situation to finally learn from. And that puts massive question marks to the news writers, tech representatives and researchers: is what you do something we have to believe, because quite clearly, facts are not consistent with it? Do you represent a type of religion or belief system?
  • Not all are like that. The Scientific American, a journal that I am a subscriber and reader of since many, many years, reports extremely well, and explains the actual technical aspects of the winning device.
  • The Cybathlon was announced as competition that allows visitors to "understand the issues surrounding disability in a practical way". When not even the organizers understand these issues, and not even in a theoretical way, how on earth can they assume an ability to instruct visitors so they understand disability issues?

Trash Culture, the Cybathlon prosthetic arms race show Circus, and other prosthetic limb Trash Culture approaches

"Mommy, do I have to repeat every mistake others made before me myself?" - "Yes, one can learn so much from mistakes".

Don't get me wrong here.

Trash Culture is a great contemporary experience. If anything, this is what gets people talking. But it is not research or academic. This is not at all a critique, but an attempt to better localize this strange event in context of prosthetic arms, amputation and society.

It is just a Circus.

To unmake it a Circus and Make It a Technical Contest, a bit more attention to detail would have be needed. A lot more attention to detail would have made it a great event. That all was missed.

Now, I will supplement you with the required extra details below to make it a research observation despite the organizers successful attempts to keep it simple, hip, sexy and trashy .... but let that not spoil the fun for you.


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BeBionic3 - new hand, well known grip patterns [video]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic3 - new hand, well known grip patterns [video]; published December 20, 2012, 14:31; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=1170.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic3 - new hand, well known grip patterns [video]}}, month = {December},year = {2012}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=1170}}

The new BeBionic3 hand is out!

The previously documented grip patterns of the BeBionic2 hand are still there with this product. It looks fabulous. And it is more stable and robust than ever.

There is a video to watch. Further down, I will compare BeBionic 3 hand grips to my own grips, and evaluate the relevance from my view as a well coordinated user of a massively tweaked body powered arm, and I have enough muscle power, to also type up all this.

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BeBionic2 - new grip patterns [pictures]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic2 - new grip patterns [pictures]; published November 2, 2011, 00:53; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=502.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic2 - new grip patterns [pictures]}}, month = {November},year = {2011}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=502}}

While the BeBionic and the iLimb shared a number of seemingly similar features the BeBionic2 seems to take things into its own hand. So to say.

Well, finally. Finally a modern prosthetic hand with really useful features. Great stuff. Now all we need are prosthetic sockets and wrists that allow for pin lock mounts and minimal wrist unit dimensions. I have a long stump and so do others. Only once these sockets are really comfortable will they be a real option to body powered arms. But, for now, BeBionic2 - great stuff to look at.

And that's not all. There are some activities that really make overuse symptoms of my left (remaining) hand worse. Using a mouse, using repeated trigger movements when spraying detergents, those sort of things are among the worst. They make my carpal tunnel syndrome come back. This is so far the only prosthetic hand and definitely the first prosthetic hand that seems to specifically look after specific manipulations of people in our society to improve health of my remaining hand.

Ah!!!! Sorry about that. But I was just kidding. But I could not resist ; )

With that, one should probably have a really good look at what the activities really are that strain and overuse the remaining hand and what activities the prosthetic really should be able to do or support.

Other than that, I wonder why no one came up with a simple positioning / click-action USB interface for the prosthetic arm - why using a single finger to operate a mouse, which, to an amputee, are two distinct expensive approximations and go-betweens? I mean, if you can avoid "clumsy", would you?

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BeBionic v2 [new product]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic v2 [new product]; published May 20, 2011, 22:38; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=413.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - BeBionic v2 [new product]}}, month = {May},year = {2011}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=413}}

Brand new model - here is the apparently improved BeBionic hand from RSL Steeper.

Cool features include "14 grip patterns" and "soft finger pads". In fact, soft surfaces are the one and all for grips with non adaptive grippers such as hooks, as I figured already a while back.

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2010's "bionic" prostheses and why they fail

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - 2010's "bionic" prostheses and why they fail; published February 8, 2010, 11:19; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=282.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - 2010's "bionic" prostheses and why they fail}}, month = {February},year = {2010}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=282}}

[Find all articles about the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand]

We wonder why these very cool looking and beautifully designed "bionic" prostheses [BeBionic, iLimb, Michelangelo] remain cumbersome and why, as products, they just tank.

The mechanism why we must love them is neurological. Our brain is programmed to positively respond to certain triggers. We like shiney objects. We love 3D. And we sure love things that promise both. So it is clear why "boinic" hands are loved by engineers, tinkerers, media and the (non disabled or otherwise disabled) public alike: by virtue of the Mesmerized Bunny Effect.

They do not stand up to promise. And if previous clear indications keep getting ignored, I'll repeat them here. After all, upper extremity prostheses are rejected by 33% to 38% of those users that do participate in surveys - and that is a lot. Not counting these that are disillusioned and stop participating. That failure rate is so high, in fact, that we see it is an industry failing its clients through small time tinkering and greed, not an industry facing a daunting job.

If these prostheses actually were 'bionic', they would not just look like a movie prop. Instead, by being truly bionic, they would:

  1. Feel 'bionic' - that is, painless, seamlessly integrated, worrilessly angulated, stress free in grip control,
  2. Move 'bionic' - prosthetic parts move in a fluid and effortless motion together with existing joints rather than just doing simple grasp/ungrasp motion,
  3. Degrade and fail 'bionically' - that is, fail gracefully and gradually.

But in reality, 'bionic' used for such constructions is probably a straight plain lie. It is most likely founded in hyped up overadvertising and not at all in reality as particularly these myoelectric prosthetic arms:

  1. do not feel seamlessly integrated, worrilessly angulated and stress free in their grip control but quite the contrary: grip control is typically unreliable, elbow motion is heavily and painfully restricted, there is no wrist motion at all at my level of amputation, so the term 'bionic' has no bearing here;
  2. do not move in a fluid and effortless motion together with existing joints and residual extremities but in reality, they produce isolated uncoordinated motion that turn my elbow and shoulder muscles to painful hardwood;
  3. do not at all fail gracefully and gradually, but are alive one moment, dead next moment, grip hard one moment and let go the next; I never dropped as much stuff as when wearing the myo arm. These are embarassingly unreliable. I much rather go out without prosthesis.

If we look at the materials, make, design, care of build and other details of many commercially available parts, it is mind-bogglingly easy to understand: prosthetic arms are built rather affordably and then sold for huge amounts of money, and getting that money back as a client, or revising any technical decision - as a client - is next to impossible. Once insurance buys that prosthesis, money is gone.

It takes a simple user as me just about a year to figure that out - but so-called specialists have been playing pogo-pogo with the subject for decades. Absent wrist and restricted elbow motion due to a painful and hard to use socket - and then act 'surprised' that shoulders and back are overused and painful and hard when just touched gently? Obviously that type of outcome is common and in each and every instance it is very bad. Then what? More 'bionic' gadgets? Why insurances don't investigate this is beyond me. Can't they afford specialists?

Of course, amputees don't melt or go away. Were you thinking that? Long lasting disappointment is one outcome, another one is to not even showing up for studies no more. Yet another outcome is shoulder overuse due to poor fitting of the prosthetic parts into one's overall activity, and poor shoulder function is conversely associated with particularly poor prosthetic usage. A recent outcome is that amputees start to network and create their own activity to remedy the lack of cogent care by finding better representatives of support.

No, really we are dealing with an industry that is shooting itself into its own foot. In a major way. And it is necessary to address that in very clear terms.

When I tried my first myoelectric arm, I had a special socket made for testing purposes. It was very painful, I could not lift stuff, the hand was not reliable, the elbow could not be leaned upon. And all it all it was a particularly cumbersome experience so I read up in current medical literature. Also, I was surprised and asked other users.

  • A user of > 20 years of experience: "And everything you describe is how it was for me. The elbow was pushed inward to fit tight over my elbow, to help hold the thing on...yeah right! The tiniest bit of sweat and it would slide down and pinch my elbow bones to the point of pain. And so, besides the cost of the thing, that's why I don't wear anything anymore."
  • A user of > 50 years of experience: "I have not yet seen any myo that can out perform a body powered unit unless there is no residual limb left to work with. Particularly if it's bang for my own buck....there is no comparison. Just ask for a reference of a satisfied myo user with similar condition to yours. I'll bet you don't get one or if you do it will be disappointing. Also demand a gratis build if you find it too uncomfortable to use. I predict that there will be a lot of shuffling and maybees. 50 + years of experience here and nothing has changed but the costs."
  • Another user: "I have a myo electric arm and the not in control, I am finding out..(..) Just the slightest muscle movement its like the arm goes into a "fit"."

So, here is why these "bionic" hands tank.

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RSL Steeper BeBionic

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - RSL Steeper BeBionic; published February 8, 2010, 11:01; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=281.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1573562229, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - RSL Steeper BeBionic}}, month = {February},year = {2010}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=281}}

Competing with Touchbionics' iLimb and Otto Bock's Michelangelo hand, this now is RSL Steeper's BeBionic. These "bionic" wonderworks all bank on the Mesmerized Bunny Effect while technologically missing just about all current points there are about to be missed.

Do we wonder: are these all, or at least some of these, built by the same Chinese OEM original equipment manufacturer for 180$ a piece before they are sold for 50'000$ to insurances or individuals? Yes, we wonder :) I should add that I have nothing against 'made in China' - I was there and got the chance to see this and that and from that it becomes apparent that a lot of very good stuff is built there. I only oppose the drastic price margin.

[UPDATE 1] Now, this product appears to be manufactured by RSL Steeper in the UK as one user that wants to support the company tells us, and its price allegedly may be a lot lower. That, of course, changes things as affordable products are a tee-totally other league in terms of trying them out, using them, wrecking them, repairing them and getting them tweaked.

[UPDATE 2] To me, this hand moves and looks so much like the iLimb that I wonder whether Touchbionics didn't just diversify to have this model produced and sold in a lower price range and built from cheaper materials, maybe. It's pure speculation, of course, but study the phalanges, their size proportions and their motion patterns as closely as you can. Just from looking at this, I feel there is more than a slight chance of technical overlap. Also, from a sales point of view - not only did Touchbionics almost fail to get a bank loan in January, but also it seems they hit bottom in terms of selling iLimb units. Plus, market tells us that brand new developments in this domain are so cost prohibitive that right from the outside this should be a copy rather than a new development. Friends of the company would like to suggest otherwise, but we're here to freely speculate. At any rate, evaluate this one well.

Now, here's some demos.
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