I-LIMB revolutionary bionic hand on sale for $17,455

It can’t click its fingers or play the piano but there’s not much else the latest bionic hand won’t do. A massive advance on previous artificial limbs, it can turn a key in a lock, hold a wine glass or punch a pin number into a cash machine. The i-LIMB is the first to come to the market that has bending fingers just like your own and also a flexible wrist and rotating thumbs. Lighter than a real hand, the device capitalizes on the brain’s determination to try to move a limb even when it has been lost. The brain thinks it is still there and sends signals to the nerves and severed muscles. So flexible are the fingers that they can open the ring-pull of a soft drink can. Best of all, the wearer doesn’t have to do the washing up as it’s not totally waterproof. Made from light-weight plastic usually found in car engine components the i-LIMB is attached to the arm via a laminated socket.

The socket, which slips over the patient’s arm, conceals a rechargeable battery and a pair of electrodes which sit on top of the skin, where they pick up signals destined for the absent hand. The signals are transmitted to a tiny computer housed in the back of the artificial hand and control the motors hidden in the fingers. For £8,500 ($17,455) the wearer gets a hand that, for the first time, bends its fingers to grip objects, says inventor David Gow, an engineer with Lothian NHS in Scotland. An entirely lifelike version is on sale privately for around £13,000 ($26,695).

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