May 5th is a great day. Not only does Otto Bock appear to start pulling out of the body powered prosthesis business altogether, but Touch Bionics starts to sell something very cool: the i-LIMB Pulse.
Image (C) Copyright Touch Bionics.
After RSL Steeper's BeBionic, after Otto Bock's Michelangelo hand and after Touch Bionics' i-LIMB it now appears that Leipzig 2010 will be the first high-tech race for myoelectric prosthesis in what was before a rather quiet market. They all call their product 'bionic' in the one or other way even though these all are simple good old two-electrode myoelectric wah-wah-machines as developed back in the good old Fifties. They all offer a range of feel good distractions that do not at all enhance the 'bionicity' of their products but the race is on nevertheless.
And very slowly, that race does get interesting.
Quite obviously, I want a multi-electrode if not full-surface, non-invasive recording of my arm stump, a comfortable socket, a silicone liner that allows full weights to be placed on the prosthesis, protection from interference, plug and play interfaces that are standardized (USB, wrist connector, Bluetooth, electricity, you name it) and not proprietary, combined full wrist and hand motion (rather than separated axial wrist rotation and some isolated finger clench mechanisms). And I want to train that setup using software that I can work with - and then will I consider calling that 'bionic'. Or buying it. I definitely need complex grips if a myoelectric should help me (for open/close, you cannot beat my current body powered arm).
And that all is not available yet. But watching the developments improve is great. And Touch Bionics now has introduced user software to control and adapt settings of their myoelectric hand. Yes, of course I want something like that! Why wouldn't I! Also, they now built that hand to be strong and sturdy. I had to laugh from sheer joy all afternoon - not that this is already what I'm going to buy. But because that shows that some of these people do develop in the right direction.