Reasonably recently in a hospital far, far away
A nine-year-old boy has just been fitted with a child-sized bionic hand! His family name may or may not be Skywalker, we cannot be sure, but it really is incredible how much technology has moved on. I wanted to explain how the hand works, what it does, and the possibilities that this presents for disabled people in the future.
What’s The Story?
Josh Cathcart (obviously an alias the Jedi would use), a nine-year-old boy from Fife in Scotland, is the first child in the UK to be fitted with a bionic hand, known as the i-limb quantum. After being born with his right arm missing from the elbow, Josh was getting bullied at school because of his disability. His parents started to look at alternatives to his prosthetic that he had at the time and came across Touch Bionics, the company who supplied him with the device.
The hand works by responding to the wearer’s muscle signals to create different kinds of grip (for example, Josh says he can now do a ‘pinch grip’ for picking things up and that there is a specific muscle grip for using cutlery and lightsabres). The hand is also configurable using a mobile phone app – and on top of all of this, it looks pretty cool too!
The Family’s Verdict
According to the Guardian, Josh says that his new hand is “awesome” and that he can “open packets, stack up blocks, build Lego… and…pull my trousers up.” Josh says that the hand feels quite heavy, which I think could be a bit of problem for younger children trying to make use of similar, but I’m sure as time goes on the hand will become more lightweight. Look at how big iPods and iPads used to be and now within the last ten years they’ve become a lot slimmer and more lightweight. I think it’s only a matter of time before the makers of the i-limb quantum are able to make these changes to make it even easier to use.
Josh’s Mum also says that she didn’t give a lot of thought to his disability at first, but that as time went on, she started to feel bad about it and the impact it was having on her son. ‘So,’ she says, ‘we started looking for something a bit more advanced – something that moved. So…we went on the Internet and then came across this company Touch Bionics.’ She also says that it has given him more independence – Josh can now make his own snacks and play more easily – as well as tidying his own bedroom!
Josh’s Dad James explains that he will only get nine to twelve months use out of the hand because of his socket growing and that he would have to go and get new sockets as time went on. His Dad says it’s ‘great’ because ‘he can do things on his own without us helping him.’
This is a fantastic development, and I’d like to think that there will be more developments in the future.
There are already cochlear ear implants that transmit sound waves to people who are born deaf or hard of hearing, as well as bionic hands. But I’d love it to go one step further. I’d like for there to be bionic eyes and ears – how cool would it be if I had a bionic eye to replace my left one?! (which has absolutely no useful sight!).
As for the use of phone apps, I think we just have to wait for this to blow up! iPads and computers have already made a massive difference to disabled people’s lives and I hope the medical profession continues to use phone technology to configure apps with devices like the i-limb quantum. It’s an amazing development within technology and I’m sure there’s more to come!
What do you think about this new development in technology? Tell us in the comments!
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