Fu­ture within hand-mak­ers’ grasp

NZ de­sign­ers up for award say world-first child ver­sion is next

Weekend Herald - - News - Kirsty Wynn

The Kiwi de­sign­ers be­hind a worldlead­ing bionic hand have set their next chal­lenge — to cre­ate a much smaller ver­sion for chil­dren.

David Love­grove and the de­sign team at 4orm-func­tion in Christchurch are fi­nal­ists at the up­com­ing Best

De­sign Awards for their in­no­va­tive Taska bionic hand.

But Love­grove said no de­signer “rested on their lau­rels” and the team was hard at work im­prov­ing the cur­rent model and work­ing on sizes for women and chil­dren.

The cur­rent Taska hand is strong enough to crush a ten­nis ball but del­i­cate enough to grasp an egg with­out break­ing the shell.

De­sign­ers spent thou­sands of hours im­prov­ing the hand, which has a tiny mo­tor, gear­box and clutch for each fin­ger and two for its thumb. It’s worth $35,000.

“The smaller-sized hands are the most chal­leng­ing be­cause there is a lot that goes into them,” Love­grove said. “That scale brings a sig­nif­i­cant tech­ni­cal chal­lenge.”

If suc­cess­ful the smaller hand would be a world first — and lifechang­ing for child am­putees around the globe.

New Zealan­ders are al­ways the first to ben­e­fit with pro­to­types used and im­prove­ments lo­cally.

“We spend a lot of time ob­serv­ing the hand at work and get­ting feed­back from users as to what they can and can’t do,” Love­grove said.

Dunedin sculp­tor Gavin Wilson has one of the most ad­vanced ver­sions of the Taska hands.

Wilson lost his hand six years ago after he put his arm in a shred­ding ma­chine, which he be­lieved was turned off.

Since the ac­ci­dent Wilson has had a num­ber of pros­thet­ics but said the robotic sen­sors in the Taska hand al­lowed him to do “nearly every­thing”.

It has been life-chang­ing. I can be sculpt­ing and get it dusty and dirty and it just washes off. Gavin Wilson, pic­tured

“It has been life-chang­ing,” Wilson said. “I can be sculpt­ing and get it dusty and dirty and it just washes off. It’s com­pletely water­proof.”

Wilson ex­plains the sen­sors are ac­ti­vated by the mus­cles in his arm, so if he tenses them, it will do one thing; if he flexes the mus­cles the hand will change po­si­tion.

The Taska hand en­tered in the Best Awards is a com­pletely water­proof hand that al­lows the user to wash the car and then sit down and en­joy a glass of wine or a beer and eat a steak with a knife and fork.

The hand is Blue­tooth-en­abled, can shake hands at var­i­ous pres­sures and has a recharge­able bat­tery that lasts 10 hours.

And just like mus­cles in a hand of flesh and bone the bionic hand can move pre­cisely and make all kinds of dif­fer­ent ges­tures.

“We can give you the mid­dle fin­ger if you want it,” Love­grove said.

The Best De­sign Awards are the largest in Aus­trala­sia and the win­ners will be an­nounced in front of a crowd of 1000 de­sign­ers at the Viaduct Events Cen­tre on Septem­ber 22.

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