Bionic Fingers to the Rescue

Frank Hrabanek works with occupational therapist Hannah Hega in Toronto, Dec.2, 2009.
Frank Hrabanek works with occupational therapist Hannah Hega in Toronto, Dec.2, 2009.

Even though he is 60, one of Frank Hrabanek’s biggest thrills these days is being able to tie his shoelaces by himself.  Until a short time ago, this two-handed task would have been impossible for Hrabanek, who lost all four fingers on his dominant left hand following an industrial accident in June of 2007. But two months ago, he was fitted with a prosthesis featuring what are being called the world’s first bionic fingers.

Like something out of Star Wars, Myoelectric sensors inside the elbow-high prosthesis pick up nerve signals from contracting arm muscles, setting the motorized digits in motion, just like natural fingers.

“I am doing so many things,” said Hrabanek, one of just four Canadians and 30 people worldwide to have the dexterity of their hands restored with ProDigits. “I can use a fork and knife for eating. It’s no problem,” he said with a grin.

Made of a silvery-grey semi-translucent material, the bare ProDigits are certainly robotic in appearance. But Dakpa’s lab is working on a cover that can be slipped over Hrabanek’s prosthesis that will match the shape and coloring of his other hand, right down to the nails. Touch Bionics announced the commercial launch of ProDigits last Tuesday.

Now that Hrabanek is becoming more agile with his bionic hand, he and his wife are looking forward to returning to their favorite hobby – fly fishing.  “That’s the miracle,” said Zlata, Hrabanek’s wife, of the technology that has helped the couple reclaim their lives. “It isn’t any more science fiction; it’s a reality.”

Source: The Canadian Press


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