Seeing as if I am now an owner of an i-Limb ultra revolution, why not post about it.
After realizing the true and great potential of body powered arms, I realized I just needed hand(s) on experience witħ one of these "bionic" hands as well, so I got funding for this, as it has the potential for being useful for one particular thing at work that I do. So, we sent the application and it was approved. Now, here we are, temporary liner, temporary socket, but charged and ready to play.
While this fragile thing is alien, weird, relatively heavy (I am super spoiled), ultra expensive (and even more if you get custom made socket parts, like custom liners, et cetera) and quite weak for so many things, the fun now lies in finding what it can be used for. Yes, setting up a laptop with cables and so on is difficult with this hand and it is easier to not wear a prosthetic arm at all for that. The hand does not hold so many items due to being not strong enough. I cannot turn a key in the door because the hand is too bulky and cannot swivel underneath the door handle when gripping the key. And typing causes shoulder pain not because of posture (that aspect can be approximated) - but the sheer weight is too high. The "little things" this hand can do - it can not. I mean, you can approximate it. But it is not at all bionic as far as I understand the term. Far from it and not the slightest bit: it is extremely loud, when some person in the same room with me wants to read a text, she puts in ear plugs, that is how bad it is. The i-Limb is not at all a natural appearance or shape, it does draw stares, it looks superbly unnatural. And it is slow and really weak. So I most certainly do not "blend in" the mildest bit. I get less stares when I wear the hook, actually, but I still have to try the cosmetic glove of the i-Limb to see how many people regard that as something to stare at. Funny thing is that it sucks for so many things! The technical hand itself is so edgy, no wonder it tears up gloves like a plough, from inside out. They did not do a 3D scan of the robot hand and create simply cheap plastic shells as interface to make gloves last and glide over the edges - they leave cleaning up their mess to the customer or to whomever. It took me only two days to perforate and damage the first (white, "technical looking" glove). So, really. Forget the advertising.
But it can be loved. It is quirky and weird. And entirely alien. And it DOES grab these soft or irregular objects (which is what I got it for, specifically that actually). When my body powered arm feels like a soft, analog, extremely well connected part of me that is brimming with power, an extension of myself really - the i-Limb is heavy arterillery: I sit here and try to figure out a complex puzzle, like trying to solve a Rubik's cube - and when I get that right, behind the next hill, a firework is shot to the sky eventually, like, half an hour later. That is the i-Limb. It feels like remote controlling a stubborn, heavy, loud idea of someone so totally different from me, located totally elsewhere. Even wearing it on a really comfortable custom liner socket combo does not make it any more me, myself, close to me. So remote.
Trying to get a glass from an upper shelf was weird. Until I realized I could simply wrap the i-Limb fingers inside to give it a good fit. It does that better than almost any other product on the market. It is weirdly wrappable.
However after figuring that one out, I went back to trying the same grab with the Becker hand. And tada, that worked too.
Typing is not a problem in terms of posture. However, my shoulder does hurt with a rather sharp pain after 1/4 h of typing due to the weight of the hand. So I would not say it is at all suitable for serious typing.
Even typing with the bare stump is far more comfortable and that also (due to asymmetry) causes shoulder and neck pains.
But, here we go. Typing. Far from ideal - but, possible.
So far, so good
Before, I was a fan of my hook for all things everyday and heavy and typing. I now am a heavy fan of the hook for that.
But for weird stuff, for the gadget fan inside me, the i-Limb provides some really new angles. For soft and irregular objects, that hand can be superb fun. Their software does allow me to program custom grips, and that is such a great feature. So it does not at all cover what body powered arms cover. It is like a rather strange complement, and, like the Becker hand, it forces one to play with it. It is also excitingly fragile. The transparent glove tore up after two days. Where it tore up (between thumb and index finger), the iLimb has a very edgy surface and lacks protective structures. The hand virtually excudes exclusive fragility. It oozes uselessness. Changing a grip pattern while taking out a garbage bag is practically impossible. The wrap of the fingers and finger joints is absolutely super.
The grip is far too weak and yet the hand is too heavy for typing.
Problem list for people that would use an i-Limb for real
We all know that the i-Limb is a product built in another world, for people in another world. We all know we are not made to ever understand it. Also it is so heavy my shoulder hurts when typing. But to hold up appearances, here is the problem list that urgently needs fixing:
- Noise. The hand is not too loud for everyday usage. It is by far too loud. Its noise level is ridiculous. Sit in a meeting, pour a glass of water. Gree. Gree. Gree. Gree. Its noise makes it a hateful apparatus. It disturbs people reading in the same room so they need ear plugs. That also defies the definition of "bionic". If that cannot be remedied, it will remain the entirely weird thing that one may use for 15 minutes in the evening and that one then puts away.
- Switching grips. Co-contraction fails 4 out of 5 times. Double or triple contraction kicks in by itself when hanging laundry. Why cannot there be a simple manual switch on the hand, next to a simple display showing a number or letter so we know what grip pattern is set? Can the switch just cycle through the patterns then?
- Glove tear-up and edgy hand structures. The hand is built so it damages the gloves. Can there be a 3D surface scan of the hand, and of the inside of a glove. Can there be little hard plastic add-ons that will clip to the i-Limb hand so gloves last considerably longer?
- Make one model with a very strong grip. It can be heavier but is not used for typing and such. Make another model with a very light weight and restricted grip but natural appearance. Or make it so that one can swap motors or motor units.
- Wrist. The wrist unit must be built in and it must be flexible. Natural appearance is a must, and relaxed flexibility is the way to go there.
Ultimately, it may well be that the iLimb is a great teaching tool to learn how to use the Becker hand better. But honestly? Who would have thought that.