Lighter, cheaper bionic prosthetic raises hope for the disabled

Imagine a world where you can’t perform everyday tasks that seem ordinary, such as holding a glass of water, pulling a drawer open, holding a card, or even using a keyboard or a phone, because you do not have hands. Even if we take it for granted, the function of the hands is very important for people to continue their daily lives. However, there are about 4 million amputees in the world for different reasons; some are  caused by birth defects, work accidents or war, and unfortunately about 200,000 people are added to this number each year. In middle- and low-income countries, most people are unable to use bionic hands because of their high costs. As in the rest of the world, many people in Turkey and across the region need cheap yet smart bionic hands. The high costs of bionic hands entirely imported from abroad are a serious obstacle for people who need these systems.

Professor Dr. İsmail Lazoğlu and biomedical Ph.D. assistants Anjum Malik and Taha Janjua are working on the development of a new electromyography (EMG) controlled bionic hand at Koç University’s Manufacturing and Automation Research Center (MARC). Smart, high-performance and cost-effective, this unique bionic hand is being designed and manufactured at Koç University’s MARC.

Explaining how the bionic hand they have developed works, Dr. Lazoğlu noted that basically EMG is a diagnostic procedure to assess the health of muscles and nerve cells (motor neurons) that control them. He said motor neurons transmit electrical signals that cause muscle contraction and relaxation.

EMG results can reveal problems related to nerve dysfunction, muscle dysfunction or nerve-muscle signal transduction. An EMG sensor uses electrodes to convert signals in the human muscle into numerical values to be interpreted later and used to control auxiliary devices. These EMG signals are used to move and control the bionic hand,” he continued.

Prof. Dr. İsmail Lazoğlu

With its design features copied from the human hand structure, the new bionic hand can perform seven basic hand movements used in daily life. These movements can be listed as functions to hold or grasp an object, to hold the fingers like hooks to open a drawer, to move the fingers on a keyboard, to hold money or a card, and to hold a pen in a lateral grip. Each finger can be controlled individually. Dr. Lazoğlu said some extra action outside the built-in movements can also be taught to this bionic hand.

The total weight of the bionic hand to the elbow is approximately the same weight as the normal human arm, i.e. about 0.8 kg. The bionic hand is operated with an existing battery that can be used for 10 hours with a single charge. The bionic hand is designed to withstand a load of 3 kg; however, it is possible to design it in such a way that it can withstand much higher loads than titanium. In terms of the mass production of the smart bionic hand with domestic and original design, it is expected to be 80 percent less costly than those imported from abroad.

It is possible to say that this development is an important step for people in need of smart bionic hand in our country.

“Using these smart bionic hands for rehabilitation purposes is just the first step. With these studies on the bionic hand in the country, we hope that amputation will no longer be an obstacle, and that there will be an opportunity for people to live more comfortably and to improve their functionality even more,” Dr. Lazoğlu noted, explaining that the bionic arm will become even more functional in the future.


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I am an artificial intelligence and robotics journalist based in Istanbul. I am the only Turkish journalist who is concentrated only on these two topics. I have been covering stories for Turkish media, including the most circulated economy magazine and an English newspaper. I am a fitness addicted and have a blog on healthy life style. I am also an amateur DJ.

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