Smart phone built into prosthetic arm [tech]

Another mostly useless prosthetic arm suggestion is made available by ever so countless online news services.

If only one of these ever tried to read and understand what things are about.

Alright, so here is the blurb:

According to The Telegraph, Trevor Prideaux has become perhaps the first man with a built in smartphone. Prideaux was born without a left arm, and had to go to extra lengths to use his cell phone.
Thanks to help from Nokia and medical experts in Great Britain, Prideaux now has a Nokia C7 embedded in his prosthetic arm, which makes texting and calling his friends and family infinitely easier. Prideaux says this about the medical marvel:I think this is the first time this has ever been done in the world – and it is brilliant. Seeing medical technology merge with communications is extremely exciting, as we’ve seen amazing life-changing stories in the past thanks to technology achievements and creativity.

Oy vey. As ever so often there are two relevant bits missing here:

  • Point 1: He is not the first person to carry entertainment technology as part of his prosthetic arm. Maybe in Great Britain but certainly not world wide.
  • Point 2: Secondly, the thing won't be nearly as much fun as it appears if ever the journalists would have paid attention instead of providing literally blind copies of this. Just shows how little journalists know about stuff these days. In short - there is something missing that is very important in this context.

Let's have a look, shall we.

Point 1: World's first entertainment arm

Pimp My Ride, Pimp My Arm.

The "Reverb Arm" built by Advanced Arm Dynamics in 2009 for Bernie Diamond probably is the first prosthetic arm with integrated entertainment technology. It did hit the news then, Reuters, OANDP, Businesswire, MTBEurope, Inside SoCal and many others blogged about it.

The cable of what does appear to be a body powered arm was not mounted for the photo shoot but then, an iPod might be easier to manipulate despite a cable that runs over it. Or this is in fact a myo arm, but a strange terminal device is worn with it. At any rate we cannot be sure what the deal is here.

However this arm is not about function or being functional. It is only about being 'cool'.

Bernie Diamond, a patient of Advanced Arm Dynamics of the Southwest was able to put the Reverb Arm to real world use on a recent ski trip with other amputees. “This is so cool. The sound quality was crystal clear and the device itself was light and small, not bulky at all. I was able to hold onto the ski poles and still enjoy listening to my iPod,” said Mr. Diamond. “The sound was so loud, it could be heard up to seventy yards away.”

Image source and (C) Copyright AAD Advanced Arm Dynamics [link]

Point 2: Cable operated prosthetic arm missing ... a cable

This arm however is publicized as being 'functional'. Not just 'cool'.

There is a happily smiling gentleman in this photo showing off what appears to be his new setup. Even Forbes [link] seems to like the story. The Telegraph, Huffington Post, CNet, Herald Sun, and many more re-copy this blurb without apparent further considerations. Even a site called ProjectWiki seems to dig into this without any notion of critical appraisal.

Image source (c) Copyright TheNextWeb [link]

Critical appraisal (remember, you read it here first):

Please note that this is a body powered arm. This arm has a hook, and hooks are operated using cables. I wear body powered arms and this cable is in the way of just about anything you'd want to wear on the arm - the cable will damage sleeves, it'll be in the way of wearing a wrist watch on the prosthetic arm, and it sure will interfere with the fun that can be had with an embedded smart phone.

Last but not the least, it is neither possible to play with the connectors such as hooking it up to a headset nor is it possible to make a phone call or take a photo, and getting it out of the cradle with a tension cable running over the arm at 0.5 to 2 mm distance might be somewhat hard if not impossible - seeing as if the device is still called 'smart "PHONE"' that might be a factor to keep in mind.

So, whoever built that arm, I am not sure what the considerations were that all went into this. My guess is they may have decided to go with the publicity and ignore some of the facts. Besides I do not know of anyone trying to make their prosthetic arm any heavier.

  • Imagine you sit in your office and you type, while, maybe, awaiting a phone call. The only logical place for the phone to be is on your desk.
  • Imagine you attend a meeting. The only logical place for your phone to be is in your pocket while it is switched to 'silent'. Only there can you feel the vibration well, and if you want to, move on to safely ignore the call without disturbing others.
  • Imagine you are jogging. I mean, why would anyone jog with a body powered arm is beyond me. I don't wear the prosthetic for jogging. If at all I wear the phone in an elastic sleeve on my arm. You might try it, it is a great way to carry a cell phone.
  • Imagine you are driving. Then, the cell phone should be mounted somewhere safe. Particularly if you are driving one handed or with a prosthetic.
  • Imagine you are on a train. How would a phone make sense tucked away in the prosthetic if you are sitting on a train though.
  • Imagine you are shopping. I usually use the prosthetic arm to carry the shopping basket. Or push the cart. I hold the phone, if I make phone calls then, with the left hand. Not with the prosthetic.
  • Imagine you are at home. Well, not too hard to figure that the phone is best placed on some table or mantlepiece. If it rings just pick it up.
  • Imagine your prosthetic arm is 100 to 400 grams lighter, depending on how much phone equipment you do *not* shove inside.

What does work, however, and it works rather well, is actually holding the phone with the prosthetic. For that you could use a Becker hand. Or a properly shaped hook, such as a Hosmer 555. Somewhat similar to what Trevor Prideaux appears to be wearing.

Cell phone fitting

Apparently, Trevor Prideaux was not offered the type of support that he sought when contacting Apple about an empty iPhone frame to play with or to create a fit.

So we read the following text on Slashgear [link]:

Once he had the idea to add a holster for a smartphone in his prosthetic arm, he contacted Apple to try to get ahold of a blank iPhone casing to test the idea out, but he notes that the group “refused to co-operate.” Next he went to his local O2 carrier when it was time to upgrade the device he already had to a new Nokia, the Nokia crew agreed to help him and the technicians at Exeter Mobility Centre to create the new limb.

Yes, Apple and the iPhone and the Telecommunications Act Section 255. Now, we have to deal with organizations and companies that obstruct disabled people and that promote only anatomically complete body image ideals elsewhere. These are a problem, and they are a nuisance, their activities might infringe on individual rights or collective rights in any single instance - but that is a different subject altogether.

Now here is the options he had to actually try whether he could get a iPhone fitted:

  • Ask an iPhone owner whether he could make 1:1 photocopies to get the size. Hint - iPhones are extremely popular and photocopying is both precise and cheap, widely available and entirely non destructive for a cell phone.
  • Download a free 3D model of an iPhone 4 to play with virtual models to evaluate a fitting.
  • Just buy an iPhone and get it fitted.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Smart phone built into prosthetic arm [tech]; published November 20, 2011, 16:28; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=509.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1582410264, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Smart phone built into prosthetic arm [tech]}}, month = {November},year = {2011}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=509}}