We at the Giz are fond of both hands and bionic things - so this iLIMB, from Scottish firm Touch Bionics, is so far up our street it's parked in our car port. A prosthetic hand with five separately-powered fingers, the iLIMB functions via the electric signals generated by the remaining portion of a patient's limb, allowing the fingers to open and close. The iLIMB, which went on sale yesterday, has been successfully fitted out on several patients - including US Army Sergeant Juan Arredondo, whose left arm was severed below the elbow whilst out on patrol in Iraq. When an explosive device was detonated via cell phone the Infantry Division sergeant was severely injured, alongside two of his colleagues. Following an unsuccessful five-hour operation to try and re-attach the severed hand (Sgt Arredondo had had the presence of mind to grab his limb from where it was still holding the steering wheel when he fled the vehicle) the soldier was sent back to his hometown to recuperate.
Finding it hard to mix with anyone who was not a wounded veteran, Sgt Arredondo became depressed, trying to cope with the loss of his hand. It was not until an organization called the Wounded Warrior Project sent the sergeant on activity trips, including a climb with Aron Ralston, who had been forced to sever his own arm after it was crushed by a boulder, that Arredondo began to feel better.
Initial attempts at fitting a prosthetic limb were not a great success, as Arredondo felt they were nothing more than a glorified lobster claw: until he saw the iLIMB. "Cool," he thought. This is more like it. The iLIMB enables Juan to throw baseballs, type using the finger-point feature, open doors on his own and even shoot a rifle. It is, he says, easier to hold with his prosthetic hand than it was before.
"I can pick up a Styrofoam cup without crushing it," said Sgt. Arredondo. "With my other myoelectric hand, I would really have to concentrate on how much pressure I was putting on the cup. The i-LIMB hand does things naturally. I can just grab the cup like a regular person."