The "toy class" is under way.
- "cosmetic" prosthetic arms.
- There are "body powered" prosthetic arms.
- There are "myoelectric" prosthetic arms that also contain what currently is offered and advertised as "bionic" (a misnomer!) hands.
Along the listed sequence, prices go up.
And now, something better is there - the "toy class" is under way. As it appears, parts are affordable so far. And as it appears, the usual prosthetic component manufacturers avoided to make such material accessible, so as always [link, link,link], other people had to step in.
Let me be clear here - when I buy a consumer product termed "car" that costs some 1500 to 3000 CHF to produce, I pay ten-fold. I buy clothes that cost some CHF to produce, paying also around ten-fold. Now, for a simple steel hook in a good quality or for a Becker hand, street prices are about two or three times the production cost. So much appears to be fair and acceptable.
But paying tens of thousands of CHF for simple electronics that do not even have a fully fledged toy accessibility suite? Without a massively improved stump arm interface?
You must be kidding me.
After I had saved up a lot of money expecting a mature prosthetic component industry to churn out industrial style professional parts for adult mature users in the X-treme wreckage high functionality class, and after I saw that the industry still fails us by very far, I invested substantial finances in land, bought a new car, went on holidays, and increased my sports activities - all around those were really good moves as my investment choices proved to be rather substantial improvements no currently available prosthetic gadget can ever deliver. So far, so good.
And I decided to wait.
Now, "Thalmic Labs" announced "Myo" as system for facilitating gesture control. The system appears to allow (also non disabled) users to control their computers in a new way.
With a wave of your hand, MYO will transform how you interact with your digital world. The MYO armband lets you use the electrical activity in your muscles to wirelessly control your computer, phone, and other favorite digital technologies. Windows and Mac OS will be fully supported, and APIs will also be available for iOS and Android. The MYO uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with the devices it is paired with. It features on-board, rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, and an ARM processor.
This is not the only interesting thing.
The MYO is outfitted with Thalmic’s proprietary muscle activity sensors. It also features a 6-axis inertial measurement unit.
With that, I see a number of intriguing applications. Particularly it will be interesting to play with control paradigms. Also, there are some ideas about using posture not to control the hand but the ever so evasive wrist.
As I already posted earlier (as in: months and years ago), the requirements for a real toy-class prosthetic hand contains different and more features than the current offerings of "bionic" (a misnomer!) hands:
- I want to be able to have access to the feature recognition process.
- I want to be able to tweak the mechanical aspects of such a hand.
- I want to be able to sufficiently constrain degrees of freedom to suit my own applications.
Also, people that research complex myoelectric control for prosthetic arms may get something out of that.
Not Otto Bock though. Last time I attended an Otto Bock "Michelangelo" hand product demo I asked them about multi electrode finger control, and the guy showing off the arm (later confirmed by the Swiss representative) told me that this was not built or sold anywhere or in any foreseeable future at all - so Otto Bock surely cannot be in the market for multi electrode control. After all, would they lie to customers?
So we have to monitor and watch the other major players - including RSL Steeper and Touch Bionics.
I love entertainment industry for coming up with this.
Way to go : )