What’s it like to live with bebionic?
26, October 2016
Motherboard goes behind the scenes at Steeper to discuss technology and talk to the engineers behind the bebionic hand. Finding out what the advancements in prosthetics mean to users like Nicky and Nigel who are living with bebionic.
Earlier this year, Steeper were approached by Motherboard, an online magazine and video channel dedicated to uncovering the latest stories and technologies, to produce a short film about bebionic. Following on from a short feature they produced in 2015, this time, the team were keen to focus on Nicky Ashwell, the first bebionic small user and the technology behind bebionic that makes it the world’s most lifelike, functional and easy to use multi-articulating prosthetic hand commercially available today.
We invited the Motherboard team to the Steeper Head office to try out bebionic for themselves and to talk to the brains behind bebionic; Technical Director, Ted Varley and Product Development Manager, Martin Wallace. In the film, both Ted and Martin explain the functionality of bebionic and the capabilities that it has, “bebionic is myoelectric, meaning that it’s controlled by signals from the muscles in the arm, which are picked up by electrodes in the prosthetic hand’s socket. The hand cycles through a pattern of grips that open and close on command. From power grip, which is equally at home holding a ball or handle as it is shaking another person’s hand, to mouse grip, which allows users to operate a computer mouse, there is a bebionic grip pattern suited to every situation. The hand is powered by individual motors in each of the fingers, while microprocessors track the motion of each digit to keep them in line. Essentially, bebionic offers movement as close as possible to that of a human hand and crucially, the hand that Nicky wears, is smaller than previous generations, making it the first prosthetic hand designed specifically for women, teenagers and smaller framed men.”
In this episode of Humans+, Motherboard also meet with Nicky, to discover what life is like with bebionic and what the technology has meant for her. In the film, Nicky explains that whilst she appreciates the extra functionality the hand gives her, she is wary of relying too much on technology and the impact that could have on her own sense of identity. For her, bebionic is perfect and not intrusive, the grip patterns are easy to use and the functionality is simple to control. Talking long-term and the developments within the industry, Nicky feels that whilst good for some, a mind-controlled prosthesis would be too intrusive for her. Comparably, in the film, Motherboard, also speak to bebionic user Nigel, who credits bebionic with giving him a new lease of life.
The film also explores what the future of the prosthetics industry holds for users like Nigel and Nicky and asks “as prosthetics get more advanced, are they purely an assistive device, or could we see them as a human enhancement? And when technology is incorporated into our own bodies, what does that say about the relationship between mankind and machine?”
The film is available to watch via the Motherboard channel: http://bit.ly/2e9EyV7