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BeBionic's myo-electric hand features numerous improvements over past models, including being the world's first rotatable electronic prosthetic hand.  (Source: BeBionic)
The force is strong in this prosthetic

High tech bionics may one day provide vision to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  But among the most exciting prosthetics is the possibility of fully functional prosthetic limbs.

In his visionary science fiction epic 
Star Wars, director George Lucas showed protagonist Luke Skywalker getting his hand chopped off by his villainous father, Darth Vader, only to have it replaced by a prosthetic that offered the complete functionality of his old hand.  Today, modern science hasn't quite caught up to Star Wars, but it's getting awfully close.

A UK-based firm called BeBionic has unveiled its completed myo-electric bionic hand masterpiece.  The company bills the device as the "next generation of fully articulated myo-electric hands." Myo-electric means that the limb is controlled by muscle contractions the surface of the residual limb.  A computer translate the inputs (muscle contractions) into outputs (hand movement) given its configured action profiles.

Past mechanical hands have featured flexion/extension, but the new hand will be the world's first to offer rotational articulation.  Plus the device offers wireless communication with a control computer, versus the USB cables that many previous models have featured.

The true key to the device though is the ability for users to customize exact commands in terms of speed, force, and grip patterns, for common tasks.  That should great simplify everyday chores like picking up objects or typing.

BeBionic is showing off the electronic appendage at the ISPO World Congress in Leipzig and offers a demo video here.

The device will be available for worldwide distribution in June in 19 different realistic silicone skin tones, for a true sci-fi feel. 

Now if the scientists can just get to work on lightsabers, we'll be all set.

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Why hand shaped?
By MozeeToby on 5/24/2010 2:08:48 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, I know there are all kinds of social and physiological reasons why you might want your prosthetic to be humaniform; but seriously, if you're going to have a non-equivalent replacement, why not go nuts. Two thumbs (one on each side but built such that one or both can be moved out of the way), a wrist joint with a full 360 (or more) degrees of rotation, mounts for basic tools... and that's just off the top of my head. Amputees are the pioneers of our trans-humanist future, if they want to be anyway.

RE: Why hand shaped?
By Shatbot on 5/24/2010 3:26:02 PM , Rating: 2
I can imagine it, people building custom roms and hacking their bionic appendages.

Running on Android.

RE: Why hand shaped?
By FishTankX on 5/24/2010 5:36:21 PM , Rating: 4
I'm not sure if you were entirely serious, but i'm going to give a semi serious response.

In all likelihood, the reason why these hands are modeled to be so close is to make it easier to quickly regain the function of the lost hand by diminishing the brain's learning curve with the new equipment. By keeping it similar to what it's replacing, you're decreasing the amount of retraining the brain needs to do and making full use of the decades of experience and hardware the brain has dedicated to hand control.

RE: Why hand shaped?
By HotFoot on 5/24/2010 7:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't be surprised to see something like what you're talking about down the road. For now, though, the human hand is an incredibly versatile tool. You could probably come up with some custom model that would be handy for a given profession, but then, we already have tools designed to work with the human hand - it's the universal standard. This tech is already rather on the expensive side (but I'd spend every dime I had on it if I had lost my hand) - after getting the prosthetic I wouldn't want to have to shell out an insane amount of cash for custom versions of every tool in my garage.

RE: Why hand shaped?
By Motoman on 5/25/2010 10:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
For one thing, your brain is used to operating a human-shaped's used to giving commands for 4 fingers and a thumb.

Secondly, the world is designed around hands - for example, the computer you're sitting in front of. Keyboard & mouse - need hands.

Also, if you were squeamish about your robohand, naturally if it's hand-shaped you can just wear gloves and appear to be normal...other than the constant wearing of gloves that is.

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