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Eric Jones holding Lego block with ProDigits  (Source: Touch Bionics)
Device can cost over $70,000

Most of us take little things like holding a glass or brushing our teeth for granted. For some people who have lost hands or fingers, these tasks can be impossible to accomplish without help or specialized equipment.

A new generation of bionic fingers has been unveiled by a company called Touch Bionics. The company is developing advanced upper-limb bionic technologies and has announced the official launch of its ProDigits bionic finger. ProDigits are the world's first powered bionic solution for people who have lost fingers.

The ProDigits prosthetics are custom built for each application by clinicians to insure that they function ideally for the patient. ProDigits are controlled by using one of two methods. Either myoelectric sensors that register muscle signals from the residual finger or palm can be used or a pressure sensitive switch in the form of a force sensitive resistor or a touchpad can be used to control the fingers. The last approach relies on the remnant of the finger or the tissue surrounding the metacarpal bone to provide the necessary pressure to activate the finger.

One user of the ProDigits prosthetic Michael Bailey said, "Honestly, I had only put it [ProDigits] on for five minutes and I was getting it to work just fine. It feels like it belongs there, like it’s part of me."

The Telegraph reports that the ProDigits device costs between £35,000 and £45,000 and requires no surgery. That works out to roughly $57,000 to $73,000 USD. The chances of patients' insurance actually covering this prosthetic is slim meaning that the ProDigits system will be well out of the reach of most people who could benefit from the technology.

A range of coverings can be chosen by the patient including clear skins and a "livingskin" pattern that is natural looking. ProDigits hope to work with the National Health Service in the future for payments in Europe.



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Meh...
By ajira99 on 12/9/2009 12:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
I suppose any advancement in this field should be applauded, but it seems to me that "advanced bionic" technology would leverage proprioception or even phantom limb syndrome to better "approximate" the lost limb. In this case, an actual bionic finger that uses electrical impulses to represent sensory touch (instead of piezoelectric pins ala braille terminals), not an interchangeable hand built for a specific task. Geez, as a kid I was building robotic arms that could pick up eggs and stacks cans under computer control.




RE: Meh...
By Anoxanmore on 12/9/2009 12:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, the next step will be for it to be implanted on the area added to said lost limb, and then being able to feel. Although I think those days are quite a few years off, if not decades.


RE: Meh...
By chagrinnin on 12/10/2009 1:43:24 AM , Rating: 2
I lost my finger years ago in an accident. You don't know how much you depend on something until it's gone. I'd give anything to have my finger pulled just once more. :P


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