World first: Wrocław scientists create bionic arm… steered by feet
Scientists from Wrocław have created the world’s first bionic arm that can be steered entirely by the movements of the user’s foot.
Produced by Bioengineering.pl, the SuperHand can be controlled by the company’s innovative patented method – a special shoe insert fitted with sensors which is connected with the prosthesis and moves it when pressed with different parts of the foot.
By moving the toes of the foot, the user can open and close the palm of the hand; by tilting the foot right or left, they can move the wrist. Bending the arm’s elbow requires resting their foot on its heel and lifting their toes.
Thanks to this innovative way of steering, the SuperHand can be used easily even by people who have undergone bilateral amputation.
With work on the model first beginning in 2015, the SuperHand was developed through the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team of experts specializing in robotics, mechanics and prosthetics as well as construction experts, electricians and rehabilitation experts.
As the company states on its website, the idea was born from the desire to find a more intuitive way of controlling a prosthetic arm than those that currently exist on the market. The other aim was to find a solution for patients with a high degree of arm amputation, who require a functional and affordable prosthesis.
“Many of today’s modern medical technologies are not sufficiently accessible. We believe we can change that”, the company’s website states.
Wojciech Jopek, President of the Board at Bioengineering.pl, said: “The greater the problem after amputation, the more patients will be steered towards our solution, because, in my view, it is sufficiently easy and intuitive and lastly also attractive in its price, so I hope these patients will direct themselves towards us.”
According to the company, the solution of steering the SuperHand with the help of the foot, is also advantageous in that it enables users to master its functioning in just over a dozen minutes and its mechanical construction allows for wide functionality with lowered costs of production.
Alongside foot steering, the SuperHand also offers an alternative method of control, via electrodes attached to muscles which send EMG signals to the prosthesis.
The SuperHand offers different types of grips allowing for all major and minor movements of the hand needed in everyday life, while other features include a three-hour charging time and modular design which allows for the ideal fitting of the prosthesis to the user regardless of the degree of their amputation.