Touch Bionics Brings Prosthetic Control to iOS

4-15-2013 8-47-27 AM

Touch Bionics introduces a new mobile technology to the quickly growing advanced prosthetics market, a hand prosthetic controlled remotely through an integrated iOS app.

The company’s flagship product, the i-Limb Ultra, is a prosthetic hand with four individually powered fingers, a fully rotatable thumb, and an auto-grasp feature which helps prevent objects such as drinks or food from slipping from the hand’s grip.

As the prosthetic market grows and devices become capable of contorting to more sophisticated hand positions, more sophisticated user controls are becoming standard. Many gestures are challenging to for patients to manually configure and a variety of companies are approaching the user control problem with different solutions.

With i-Limb Ultra, an iPod Touch or iPhone 5 will allow patients to select from more than 20 additional types of motions and grips. Users are also able to customize grip patterns through the app, storing personal favorites for future use.

It seems counter-intuitive to require a user control their prosthetic hand by using an iPhone app. It’s a great enhancement to generate buzz, but from a usability factor, there are a lot of steps to getting out a phone, opening the app, and selecting the gesture. Why not just have a small selection menu on the hand itself, or as one reader suggested?

“If you are going to make a "wireless" controller for a bionic hand why not make a small Bluetooth bite-wing that could be controlled by the users tongue so the person could use both hands at the same time (when they want to work and not talk)? Or make a shoe insert that after some training can be used by the operator’s toes? Myoelectric, or anything but an iPhone.”

Ultimately, as prosthetics become more mechanically capable, a higher level of sophistication will be required for controlling them in a non-intrusive manner. This is a great problem to have in what is quickly becoming an exciting segment of the health IT market.

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