UK based RSLSteeper‘s newest artificial hand, bebionic, will be coming to a prosthetics retailer near you next month. The announcement for the hand’s commercial debut was made at the ISPO World Congress and Trade Fair in Leipzig, Germany last week. Bebionic is an advanced myoelectric prosthesis that is controlled via surface signals from residual muscles and is capable of four different grips. The hand comes with a silicone covering made to replicate the appearance of human skin, and special software (bebalance) that allows you to program the limb wirelessly. Hopefully bebionic’s appearance on the market will be a sign of continuing innovation and dropping costs for artificial hands.
We first reviewed the bebionic hand back in February. Like other myoelectric hands it provides for a level of control that is beyond that seen with traditional hook-like prosthetics. However, as impressive as the bebionic is, it hasn’t really distinguished itself from other myoelectrics already on the market (such as i-Limb). The bebalance software is neat, and the associated powered wrist (available this summer) and smaller hand size (7.25 inches instead of 7.75 inches – available in 2011) promise some versatility, but none of this is exactly mind-blowing. Check out the promotional video below:
I was hoping that RSLSteeper would announce a price along with bebionic’s availability, one well below the $17k (approximate) cost of its competitors. Unfortunately they haven’t made that information public yet. Still, even if bebionic is only an incremental step beyond other myoelectric hands it represents the growing competition in this field. As TouchBionics (makers of i-Limb), RSLSteeper, and others vie for dominance in the artificial hand market, customers will benefit from increased innovation and lowered prices. As always with prostheses, creating a cool mechanical limb is only half the problem. You also have to find a way for all the amputees in the world to afford it. The arrival of bebionic should be a step in the right direction.
[image credits: RSL Steeper]
[source: RSLSteeper press release]