The Michelangelo Hand is a fully articulated robotic hand prosthesis developed by the German company Otto Bock and its American partner Advanced Arm Dynamics. It is the first prosthesis to feature an electronically actuated thumb which mimics natural human hand movements. It can be used for a variety of delicate everyday tasks, and has been in use by military and civilian amputees in the United States and United Kingdom since 2011.
Design and development
The Michelangelo Hand's development was begun by the German prosthetics manufacturer Otto Bock. In 2008, the American company Advanced Arm Dynamics became involved with testing and further refinement.
The prosthesis is battery-powered and can be used for up to 20 hours between charges. Constructed of metal and plastic, it is designed with a natural, anthropomorphic aesthetic, and can be custom-fitted for each user. Its motions are controlled by built-in electrodes, which detect the movements of the user's remaining arm muscles and interpret them using electromyography software. The fingers can form numerous naturalistic configurations to hold, grip or pinch objects. The Michelangelo Hand is capable of moving with enough precision to conduct delicate tasks such as cooking, ironing and opening a toothpaste tube, but can also exert enough strength to use an automobile's steering wheel. Skin-toned cosmetic gloves are also available for the prosthesis. In 2013, the Michelangelo Hand had a unit cost of around £47,000 (US$73,800).
Numerous American soldiers who suffered limb amputation in combat have received Michelangelo Hands since 2011. In January 2012, Matt Rezink of Wisconsin became the first civilian to receive a unit. In January 2013, Chris Taylor, a British service engineer who had lost his right hand in a jet ski accident in 2009, became the first UK citizen to be fitted with a Michelangelo Hand. By 2013, the hand was offered by several British prosthetic services companies, including Dorset Orthopaedic.
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