UK Woman Gets "World's Most Advanced" Bionic Hand Replacement

By James O Malley on at

A new technology has enabled a woman who was born without a right hand to ride a bike for the first time, among other new abilities.

Steeper Group, which is based in Leeds, created the "BeBionic" small hand for Nicky Ashwell, a 26-year-old from London; the company claims it is the most "anatomically accurate" out there and offers an "unrivalled level of precision and natural movements".

To make it happen, the company used technology also found in Formula 1 cars to build an accurate skeletal structure with miniaturised components, so that it isn't too bulky. It mimics the functions of a real hand with 14 different precision grips.

The hand works by using sensors triggered by muscle movements in her arm. Each finger has separate motors so can move independently; overall the hand contains 337 mechanical parts to make it function realistically.

The fingers are hinged on rare-earth magnets to "enhance performance through a balance of speed and strength". To enhance the realism fingertips contain air bubbles, presumably to mimic the fact that real fingers are a bit spongy. Apparently the hand can withstand up to 45kg, which is the same weight as 25 bricks. We're presuming though the simply wearing the hand doesn't give Nicky super strength.

Nicky, who is a Product Manager at an online fashion forecasting and trend service, said, “When I first tried the bebionic small hand it was an exciting and strange feeling; it immediately opened up so many more possibilities for me. I realised that I had been making life challenging for myself when I didn’t need to. The movements now come easily and look natural; I keep finding myself being surprised by the little things, like being able to carry my purse while holding my boyfriend’s hand. I’ve also been able to do things never before possible like riding a bike and lifting weights.”