Meet the ‘World’s Most Lifelike’ Robot Hand

The bebionic small hand copies the capabilities of a real hand with 14 different precision grips.

Photo Caption: Nicky Ashwell, 29, became the first UK user of Steeper's bebionic small hand that mimics a real hand with 14 different grip patterns to handle almost anything you need to do in an average day.

A London woman has become the first UK person to wear a myoelectric hand developed using F1 technology.

Twenty-nine-year-old Nicky Ashwell, born with a partially developed right arm, was outfitted with Steeper’s bebionic small hand. The cutting-edge robotic hand has 337 mechanical parts, magnets for improved speed and strength, and bubble fingertips for precision in handling objects.

“It sounds silly but it was just something simple when I was able to hold the pole on the train. That was the first real ‘wow’ moment,” Ashwell, whose right arm stopped developing slightly below her elbow, told The Daily Mirror. “It’s actually the small things that you do every day - which you don’t really think about - that in the end make such a huge difference.”

The bionic hand was made with small parts, specifically in scale for women and teenagers, so it’s not too big. Steeper says the bebionic small hand copies the capabilities of a real hand with 14 different precision grips. There are sensors activated by muscles in the arm to make the hand move along with each finger having its own motor to move by itself.

Here are some more features of the bebionic small hand, which retails for about $11,000:

  • Powerful microprocessors constantly monitor the position of each finger for reliable control over hand movements
  • Proportional speed control gives you precision control over delicate tasks
  • Four wrist options (Quick Disconnect, Multi-Flex, Flexion and Short Wrist) that have their own functionality
  • Strong enough to carry up to 99 pounds
  • Bebalance software that can be managed, monitored and configured wirelessly

The makers of the bebionic small hand say the technology has the potential to transform the lives of 3 million amputees.

“I would have loved as a kid to have been able to learn the piano. I do play the guitar to a limited extent, but not having a hand does hold you back,” Ashwell said. “There were sports I wasn’t very confident getting involved in because I was conscious how awkward I would be catching a ball.”

“I realized that I had been making life challenging for myself when I didn’t need to,” she continued. “The movements now come easily and look natural. I keep finding myself being surprised by the little things, like being able to carry my purse while holding my boyfriend’s hand.”

A plaster cast of Ashwell’s upper arm was made to create the socket at the end of the prosthetic forearm, which electronically detects muscle contractions in her arm that send signals to the bebionic small hand.

Steeper technical director Ted Varley said: “We leaned on a number of different industries to make the bebionic hand. The knuckle mechanisms were created using a cutting technique used on F1 car chassis. And some of the tiny motors that drive the fingers and thumb are used on missiles.”

Ashwell, a fashion product manager, can even thread a needle with the bebionic small hand.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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