A team of biomedical engineers at Newcastle University are about to trial the next generation of prosthetic limbs, bionic hands that have been fitted with cameras that take pictures of what’s in front of them to trigger movements in the hand.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the scientists were able to develop a hand that can essentially ‘see’ and then react in a single fluid movement. Some amputees have already trialled this new technology and now the team are working alongside the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to offer the device to patients at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
Co-author of the study Dr Kianoush Nazarpour said: “Using computer vision, we have developed a bionic hand which can respond automatically – in fact, just like a real hand, the user can reach out and pick up a cup or a biscuit with nothing more than a quick glance in the right direction.
“Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs. For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg so prosthetics seem slow and cumbersome in comparison. Now, for the first time in a century, we have developed an ‘intuitive’ hand that can react without thinking.”
3D printing has also been used to help improve the risks of infection with prosthetics. Researchers at Birmingham University are now using 3D printing techniques and implant designs to come up with surfaces that are resistant to contamination by bacteria. Silver is being embedded into the material used to create certain implants, with the first application intended to be reducing infections after the implantation of metal plates in the skull.
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