What happened to the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand?

[Find all articles about the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand]

Cost of Michelangelo hand

As of 2013, the Michelangelo hand was reported to cost around 90'000 CHF. An extension of the 1-year warranty (!) appears to cost another 10'000 CHF.

What did we expect?

Earlier press releases of the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand had showed a great industrial look that resembled famous real world prosthetic hands, such as the Becker Imperial hand.

So far and in my view, the Otto Bock Michelangelo design study was the coolest prosthetic design close to production ever (don't get me started on the coolest design NOT close to production).

Functionally, I did expect the Michelangelo hand to lead the market with a first multi electrode or full surface recording, with interference stable electronics that they built together with any of the major mobile phone or laptop computer manufacturers, and obviously a data glove for the remaining hand to train the whole system. Full customer software access is a given for anything that costs over 2'000 CHF and with myoelectric technology sold at prices around 30'000 CHF upwards I will expect full access to any part at any time. Also, batteries are out, Toshiba now sells fuel cells. Where are they?

But what happened!?

At the OT-Leipzig 2010 exhibition (below), they showed this oops-looking white el-cheapo rapid prototyping design. What it conveys is neither male, nor capable, or cool. None of these. There are no cables, no steel, no rust, no dried up color drip to tell us "man at work" - in essence, no coolness to fill us with joy. Waaah!

And I believe we have too be critical of what is shown as test, as proof of concept, as apparent sign of possible usefulness.

So tell me, when will they stop peeling bananas or filling water bottles, or holding on to objects of no particular concern? All these are actions of no particular prosthetic need (ANPPN). They do not prove a thing. We can do any of these just as well with a hook - or even a regular Otto Bock hand. And we can do them more comfortable and without any recharge, at a far lesser cost and with far cooler looks.

Try to show us something new. Show us piano play, guitar picking, show us a fist and then an extended index finger. Show us *new* stuff, that's what I meant to say.

There is some more video to watch:

In the following sequence, an Otto Bock employed actor / demonstrator still exhibits grip failure with his Michelangelo arm. The tooth brush drops down.

The following video shows some trick move around 0:12 ('co-contraction'):

Indeed, the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand itself may improve the way prostheses come across - but watch the arm / shoulder / body jerk required after 3:18 in the following video. I can already have smooth shoulder / arm movement with far greater reliability with a body powered arm all insurance covered. So why bother with spending huge amounts for a new gadget that still does not bring fundamentally new functions would be beyond me:

With a cosmetic glove, the hand looks surprisingly stiff and unnatural. Eating out at a restaurant, holding knife or fork will certainly draw the same stares as doing the same with any other terminal device. Furthermore, the glove really does not fit, it's got big wrinkles.

It is certainly far too early to consider writing an Otto Bock Michelangelo hand review, and there are no clear indications as to cost or price of this particular prosthetic hand but by and large, missing improvements in socket design and hand motion and functionality make one wonder if Otto Bock improved at least what seemed to be their biggest problems so far - extreme pricing and customer service.

It is really noisy, obviously, but maybe less than the iLimb. And still no new socket technology that would avoid elbow problems.

iLimb just released the iLimb pulse, and RSL Steeper came out with a robust competitively priced iLimb lookalike they call BeBionic. And reasonable requests unanswered:

What should we expect because it is feasible and we have been suffering from that for too long now?

  • Fitting socket: My elbow and that of many others is bony. I have scars there. I cannot wear a hard socket over it. I tried. I was in a lot of pain. It did not work. Other amputees share exactly that issue with me. Hard sockets don't work for us. What you see above (photo) is such a socket that holds on to the arm by encasing the elbow. It also significantly reduces elbow motion. And it completely blocks pronation and supination. Silicon liners are a perfect option. I now wear silicon liners that secure with a pin lock. Great stuff and for body powered systems, no issue. I have a long stump however and the pin lock and wrist unit should stack up so they don't exceed 4-5 cm in my instance. We built our own wrist for my arm so the unit would be flat enough and have a central hole to house the pin lock. Such units appear not to be available for myoelectric systems such as the Michelangelo hand. But without such technology, no fitting socket can be built and even if the Michelangelo hand would be able to microwave a soup all by itself, there was no way I - or others- would be able to wear it. So, no innovation with the Michelangelo hand.
  • Better function: Complex grip patterns. Full programmability. Interference stable surface recording of the EMG of the stump at several locations. So far, no such innovation with the Michelangelo hand.

As far as I see, this is still a highly restricted gadget item offered for a dream price containing Otto Bock quality - and so, there is a lot left to explore. Definitely we are not yet looking at a bionic hand - don't be mistaken on that one!

Links / further reading:

Images (C) Copyright Press Service Leipziger Messe GmbH

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - What happened to the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand?; published 12/05/2010, 21:14; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=307.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1603274166, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - What happened to the Otto Bock Michelangelo hand?}}, month = {May},year = {2010}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=307}}