A leap forward in prosthetics

The UK seems to be on the right track when it comes to prosthetic limbs, especially with the BeBionic3 myoelectric hand. Like Zac Vawter’s leg, it’s controlled by electrical impulses from the muscles.

But the BeBionic3 is a bit more complicated. The hand is capable of exerting strong or gentle force, depending on how forcefully the wearer flexes their muscles.

Nigel Ackland is a current wearer of the hand, which can take some getting used to. The way in which the movement of his upper arm muscles corresponds to the movement of the hand isn’t exactly intuitive, so it takes some time to learn exactly how to control the hand.

But once you’ve got that down pat, the BeBionic3 can perform more tasks than your typical prosthetics. Each finger can be moved individually to customize grips, and the hand can clutch something as delicate as an egg without breaking it. It can also perform a come-hither gesture, which Ackland says, “scares children and upsets my wife.”

While the arm itself is very expensive, many US insurance companies, Medicare and the UK’s public health plan cover the cost. According to the company that makes the hand, RSLSteeper, between 30 to 50 people have been fitted for the BeBionic since September.

To see just what the BeBionic can do, check out Ackland taking it for a spin below.

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