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Prosthetic Arm Operated Via An App [VIDEO]

Apr 16, 2013 03:45 PM EDT

Prosthetic designer and manufacturer Touch Bionics has invented the first upper limb prosthesis that can be controlled through a mobile application.

The app includes 24 different grip options that display on a single screen - a person need only tap the one he or she needs. And to customize it even more, individuals can select groups of grips to place in categories such as "work" in a manner much like building a playlist. Furthermore, the app can provide a hand health check, which activates a prosthesis diagnostic to ensure it's working properly, as well as run training modes to help the wearer learn how to use each grip efficiently.

Available on the Apple App Store, it is compatible with several Apple devices.

Other new features debuted in the company's latest prosthetic arm include a powered rotating thumb and a variety of wrist options to enable more natural positioning of the hand when gripping or picking objects up. In addition, new remote electrodes offer a higher level of sensitivity, in turn giving the wearer greater control.

For those looking to give the arm a more natural appearance, the company offers customized skin-matching covers.

The new features come during a time when many people opt not to wear their prostheses.

In a study published by the National Instituted of Health, researchers found that 45 percent of children with a body-powered prosthesis and 35 percent of children with an electric prosthesis opted not to wear them. These numbers were 26 and 23 percent among adults, respectively.

According to the study, the reason so many people rejected their prosthetic limb was widely variant though comfort is believed to be an issue for people, a major point of concern being the socket, which has undergone significant changes through the last few decades. 

However, perhaps even a greater concern for others, and one that Touch Robotics aims to address, is that the majority of prostheses, and especially affordable prostheses, are little more than a fake limb strapped onto the wearer.

When veteran Jonathan Kuniholm was fitted with his first prosthetic arm, he was disappointed, according to Time Magazine.

"My reaction was this is just crazy," he said. "We can do much better."

And that doesn't mean just improving the material, Kuniholm added. 

"The way I describe that whole concept," he said in reference to upgrades to the material used but not the prosthesis itself, "is if you took a pair of Dutch wooden shoes and you updated them by making them out of carbon fiber and give people a pair of rubber socks to wear them."

To address the issue, Kuniholm launched his own solution - Stumpworx, which he hopes to use to design a better socket.

Ultimately, while the perfect prosthetic arm has yet to be invented, people and businesses like Kuniholm and Touch Bionics who simply refuse to settle, are leading to better designs with more realistic interaction for wearers every day.

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