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Ask Slashdot: What Would You Look For In a Prosthetic Hand? 173

Arglebarf writes "A family member is recovering from a serious illness and, unfortunately, the medication that saved her life will probably cost her hands and feet. She is an artist by trade, so this is a pretty big deal. Replacement prostheses might restore a degree of independence, as well as enabling her to continue with her creative passions. Do any Slashdotters have experience with replacement hands? What features do you look for? Do any models allow you tweak the software for fine tuning? Beyond the day-to-day uses, she will want something that can hold small objects precisely (e.g. a paintbrush)."
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Ask Slashdot: What Would You Look For In a Prosthetic Hand?

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  • by nopainogain ( 1091795 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:24PM (#43669779)
    a cold beer!
      • New in box.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Self lubrication.

        Don't over-clock it, though. You might lose an "L".

      • Everyone here is making jokes, but why should she have to use an artificial in the first place? What happened to those hand transplants we were hearing so much about, while I remember that one basically went out drinking and screwing around and didn't take care of the hand and ended up losing it last i heard the other one is doing fine. So unless she is still taking this med, which if it kills the extremities I don't she how she will be able to have any hands at all as the stumps will be the extremities now

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      No, ability to handle a hot dog without it being crushed!


      I mean, it's important to my job. Of encased meats specialist.

      Also masturbating.
    • A remote control, so you could get it to make obscene gestures.

  • I wish... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by funky49 ( 182835 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:27PM (#43669797) Homepage

    ... I wish there was a tasteful way to make a Star Wars joke.

    Artists always find a way of creating.

  • How about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:27PM (#43669799)

    A prosthetic bird

  • A grenade implanted in the palm, obviously.

  • by Brandano ( 1192819 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:31PM (#43669849)
    If at all possible. It isn't too far fetched, hand and forearm transplants have been made, and have even achieved sensorial feedback.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:33PM (#43670459)

      There is no doubt in my mind that for now, transplant wont be an option. It is experimental and, probably more important, risky. I don't think you can be a candidate until you are stable and able to bear the stress of the transplant. The kinds of illness which she may have are unlikely to be compatible with all the surgery and anti-rejection drugs needed for transplant.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:20PM (#43670839)
      • I'd be disgusted if it weren't so damn perfect for this case. It allows for a lot of pincer strength, proprioception, a relatively high level of dexterity (it does much better blind than any cybernetic prosthesis), and has a biological feedback that's exactly the same as the regular forearm tissue, since that's what it is.

        The only real drawbacks are that it has no thumb equivalent since it's a single-jointed pincer, and that once the operation is complete and healed it looks gross.

        A major advantage is that

  • I'd expect a prosthetic bird.

    It's worth two in the prosthetic bush, after all.

  • Dean Kamen - Luke (Score:5, Informative)

    by iiii ( 541004 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:33PM (#43669879) Homepage
    Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, has been working on much more functional prosthetics. He named his bionic arm "Luke", an obvious reference we can all appreciate. Demos of it look pretty amazing. Here's the official page for it: [] Also google "Kamen Luke Arm" and you find lots of pix, vids and articles about it.
    • Re:Dean Kamen - Luke (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:51PM (#43670077) Journal

      If you want something you can actually buy: []

      It runs ~$100,000 and is more or less top of the line.

    • Re:Dean Kamen - Luke (Score:5, Informative)

      by sp332 ( 781207 ) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:19AM (#43672019)

      I used to work at DEKA. I didn't work on the Luke arm, but I got to talk to the engineers and a couple of early adopters. I think it is a great idea for an artist. The arm's controls are modular. They accept many different kinds of inputs, and the actions are even programmable with macros. You can get hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, or shoulder configurations. It is as light as a 50th percentile female arm (including the batttery!). It's precise enough to pick up a grape without crushing it. It allows enough finesse in multiple degrees of freedom to allow a double-amputee to eat cereal without spilling it (which Dean Kamen jokes even he can't do :) I saw a guy use a macro to control an electric drill to handle the changing torque while he controlled how fast the drill went. I think it would be a great choice for an artist.

      • by anagama ( 611277 )

        I saw a guy use a macro to control an electric drill to handle the changing torque while he controlled how fast the drill went. I think it would be a great choice for an artist.

        The first thing that popped into my mind, wouldn't it be cool to have multiple attachments ... remove hand at the wrist, attach drill unit. Or freakin lasers for that matter.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:37PM (#43669937)


  • That's what I'd look for anyways...

    A robotic hand is stronger than the paintbrush (or pen).

  • A sturdy socket, and a 3D printer. While highly dexterous neurally controlled arms and hands are in development, they're far from an off-the-shelf option. For specific uses (e.g. holding various artists tools) you may well be better off with some sort of magnetic socket on a stump cup, and a rack of special purpose end manipulators for each tool.
    • Spring clip instead of a magnet on a ball joint or two and off-the-shelf art supplies can be used.

      Sadly hand technology is not advancing at the same pace as leg/foot technology.


  • by Big_Breaker ( 190457 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:46PM (#43670011)

    For paint brushes and other small items I imagine holding them in her mouth will work better than current prosthetic hands.

    You may be thinking about the robotic hands you can see in research clips but most available prosthetics are simple devices that open and close with a turn of the forearm.

    The robotic hands suffer from difficulty getting a "close/open hand" signal from the brain. Implanted electrodes are all to some degree incompatible with human tissue and degrade over time. Sensors to read electrical signals through the skin are imprecise. Some versions use buttons manipulated by other body parts (likely toes in this case) but these are not in the mainstream.

    The old fashion two finger hooks seem to be the most practical answer for a lot of people. They are cheaper, durable, don't require batteries and can do a lot of useful things with any fine motor manipulation.

    A human hand is a marvel of biological engineering. Sadly it is tough to replicate in a prosthetic. Perhaps she would be a good candidate for a transplant down the road? Prosthetics may improve more quickly with so many vets having suffered limb loss. To date lower limb prosethetics seem to be well ahead of hands/arms in terms of matching the original limb's functionality. Lots of "below the knee" single amputies have no obvious impairment in terms of gait.

    • You're probably right, although she does a lot of sculpture as well that requires gluing small things to other things. Hence, the search for something that can manipulate small objects.
    • My dad lost both hands and most of his forearms as a child. He has always preferred to use his own stumps as-is, rather than mucking about with prosthetics. But then he learnt to use his arms at an early age, and he was determined to do everything he could.

      He can do practically everything you or I could do, except for things he simply can't reach or that require juggling to many things too rapidly. He has the neatest "handwriting" of anyone I know, he types by holding a pen, he can drive a car, develop software, and he's built a house extension. As an adult he's always been a productive member of society.

      While you may develop the dexterity to use a prothethic. Don't discount the potential usefulness of your remaining limbs just as they are.

  • by schwep ( 173358 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:46PM (#43670013)

    Technology is moving very fast. State of the art today won't be in 5 year. I would want a system that I could disconnect the replacement part(s) and connect up new ones without surgery. This also allows for custom limbs for specific tasks. Holding a brush may be a custom limb. I may also want a custom chainsaw arm, too.

    I want flexibility for change & all the specifications for the mating connector to my body to be open source or license/patent free so I can have custom limbs made. I want a copy of the specs for the same reason.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:05PM (#43670181)

      I may also want a custom chainsaw arm, too.

      I think S-Mart sells those in the landscaping section.

    • by mrxak ( 727974 )

      One benefit to the wars we've been fighting, is the advancement of trauma-related medical technology. So many soldiers are surviving injuries that would have killed them in previous generations, leaving them with missing limbs instead. This in turn is advancing prosthetic technology quite a bit.

      I expect that we'll see some really great prosthetics on the market over the next couple decades that will put existing ones to shame. Whatever prosthetic this family member gets in the immediate future, she'll proba

    • I may also want a custom chainsaw arm, too.


      Anyway, opensource or licence/patent free commercial artificial limbs, while technically possible, I believe are practically impossible at lest for now. Legislation(FDA, etc) on this tech is the harshest and from my experience as a medical engineer they don't like any time of user customization (and for valid reasons, for MOST of the time). You might be able to build your own from scratch or buy compatible parts from some unlicensed(or pirate) vendor in the future, but most likely it will void all

  • What kind of artist? (Score:5, Informative)

    by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @06:48PM (#43670027) Journal
    If you need touch, you might want to consider Krukenberg hands, which are gruesome to Westerners but are often the only viable option for many people.

    I'll let you google it whenever you feel ready. Some people are more sensitive than others.

    • by spopepro ( 1302967 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:05PM (#43670185)
      Indeed, it is a challenge to get used to at first, but after going to school with a major burn survivor who had the krukenberg procedure on both arms and was able to win the audition to be the drummer in the top jazz band at a prestigious music school for multiple years, it seems like the procedure allows amputees to do more than any prosthesis.
      • It seems that way to me. Until we can get the knowledge to get the human body to "sprout" new limbs like a lowly axolotl, that is.
    • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:54PM (#43670621)

      After reading about them, I can't help but wonder whether an interesting prosthetic compromise might be to somehow attach muscle fibers to implanted force-feedback strain gauges, then use the strain-gauge readings to control the hand itself (possibly in conjunction with all-electrical sensors used with other nerves to provide additional control. In other words, instead of pulling on bones, the muscles would pull on artificial ligaments cemented onto strain gauges attached to some kind of stretchy/springy plastic that itself is attached to a worm gear that moves the far point closer or farther from the muscle to alter the resistance.

      For finer control (like individual fingers), it would take an idea from the way HTC's hybrid mechanical-capacitive switches used on their last few Windows Mobile and early Android phones worked. Basically, they used capacitive means to determine WHERE (approxiamtely) you were touching the phone, but used an actual switch triggered by a press anywhere in the region to determine when you actually intended to fire a switch event.

      In a similar manner, the hand's controller could attempt to discern things like individual finger control by sensing the nerve bundle directly to come up with blunt motions, but sanity-check it in realtime against the muscle-triggered strain gauge, and use fuzzy logic to correlate patterns of nerve activity with specific variants of strain-gauge muscle tension to produce an intended action (so the actual finger, for instance, curled in direct response to the real-world forearm muscle pulling on the implanted strain gauge).

      The problem with non-mechanical nerve interfaces is that they basically have the same kind of problems that capacitive touchscreens do... terrible signal to noise ratio and processing latency compared to real-world direct actuation. Nerves aren't like switch-triggered wires in a harness... they're more like a bundle of coax carrying multiplexed spread-spectrum QPSK signals with unbelievable amounts of background noise. By directly interfacing a few muscles with strain gauges, we can bypass the hundred (give or take) years of R&D it's going to take to get signal processing up to the point where it really needs to be, and just take advantage of the signal processing that the forearm muscles ALREADY HAVE to pick out the right signals and translate them into commands for the prosthetic hand.

    • I used to know a guy who lost his hands and eyes to an explosion. He had Krukenberg hands and was able to function fairly well.
    • Interesting solution, but I think the aesthetics would be too much for her. I'd probably consider it if I were losing my hands, though.
    • For those hesitant to google it, but curious what this is: it involves refashioning the end of the forearm into pincers, using each of the bones as a "finger".
  • THIS []
  • I would want Luke Skywalker's hand if I was unfortunate enough to lose a hand or two.

  • Think of sweep, and a few others as well.
    Maybe you're not allowed to do all that you had in mind.

  • Contact Dean Kamen and ask about his Luke Robotic arm, it's a long shot as it was a DARPA funded ultra tech project, but you might be able to get somewhere if your family is rich.
  • What Would You Look For In a Prosthetic Hand?

    I dunno... why don't we ask Howard Wolowitz []?

  • I have an idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:23PM (#43670367)

    Ask the fucking prosthetics guy that will get/make her a new one when the time comes. I mean he is qualified to actually give opinions. How many people on here that would respond to you are going to actually have a prosthetic or even know anything about how they work/perform in the real world? None. Im sure some will say they have one or "Know a friend of a friends former roomates neighbor that one" but bottom line is they don't know dick.

    This question is as stupid as asking for legal advice online in a murder trial. Its the internet, 98% of your answers will come from people who don't know shit but think they do.

    • Re:I have an idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arglebarf ( 1107929 ) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:11AM (#43671987)
      When purchasing a computer, I could just ask the "fucking computer guy" at the shop. Alternatively, I could look around at all possibilities to see if some components or capabilities would suit me better than the standard options. Yes, that requires me to filter out a ton of nonsense from the responses, but I have the patience of a saint (which also helps with the trolls).
  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:45PM (#43670549) Homepage Journal

    >medication that saved her life will probably cost her hands and feet.

    What kind of medication causes you to lose your hands and feet?

    • I second this -- there is nothing that can give her the full functionality of hands or feet. But if that can be avoided by a horde of Slashdotters googling for alternatives to this medicine, that'd be better.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @11:16PM (#43671741)

      Sorry for shouting. But save the nerves. I run a regen med research lab, and there is lots of cool stuff coming down the pipe. I know, I know, Real Soon Now, but advancements are on the way. The big limitation is going to be nerves though. No matter how much cool stuff we put together with artificial bone and patient-specific stem-cell derived muscles etc, it's all moot if you can't control it properly, and the nerves, for a variety of reasons, will be the hardest part to regenerate.

      Fortunately, there has been some really interesting work done in terms of rerouting the nerves (both motor and sensory) - basically, if the nerves don't attach to anything, they die. But, if before you amputate, you take the nerves and move the ends over so they now lie against skin and muscle etc that will not be amputated, the cells remain alive (and functional). This has lots of interesting applications in terms of interfacing with prosthetics, but also in 5 or 10 years (or longer, if so - sorry, everything is often slower and more complex than we hope), this means the nerves are still there, waiting to be connected to the regenerated limb. Here is one paper that discusses it in more detail:

      I don't want to give you too much false hope about where the technology is going - I am very excited about the potential, but there are still a number of obstacles. So, live for today, but there is hope for tomorrow as well.


    • I don't know the specific drugs, complications of an existing condition led to a perforated bowel, which led to removal of said portion of bowel, accompanied by renal failure and circulatory shock. I believe that the medications in question were used to prevent organ failure, but a side effect was vascular constriction, leading to reduced blood supply to the extremities.
  • That way, people will know I'm a Jedi who can deal with a missing hand or two.
  • by egcagrac0 ( 1410377 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:54PM (#43670631)

    Given the theme of this website and the users that theme attracts, there will likely be few traditional artists, and of those, a ridiculously small segment with any experience using a prosthetic hand.

    If you wanted to know which type of prosthetic hand can best run a Model M, maybe /. is the place.

    First, ask her what will be important. She'll be using the thing.

    Then, ask fora dedicated to prostheses and artists what they suggest.

    Unless your question is about BitCoin and I misread it, in which case I apologize.

    • I know its a long shot, but I asked for the same reason I read slashdot - It is predominantly populated by nerds who love solving esoteric problems with novel tech. There's already been a few comments that, if not a perfect solution, are enough to point some lines of inquiry.
      • No problems!

        Gather all the information you can, but... I think you'll get more useful information elsewhere.

        I don't know how much hand will be lost, or if something like this could help... 3d printed replacement hand []. It's certainly intriguing; if you're building custom rather than COTS, you can possibly tweak it to better suit specific applications.

  • i don't think it's technologically impossible to get on the far side of the uncanny valley

  • this is a pretty big deal."

    As if it would NOT be a big deal for anybody else?

    • by jamesh ( 87723 ) this is a pretty big deal."

      As if it would NOT be a big deal for anybody else?

      If you were a street beggar then having a limb or two missing might be good for business.

      (sorry OP, that's probably in bad taste, but not any more so than the masturbation threads.)

    • I'm a physicist by trade, so duct-tape a whiteboard marker to my stump and I could keep working. My coding speed would suck, though.
  • A synthetic boob?

  • Do a youtube search for "prostetic arm johns hopkins" and you will get an idea of what is possible. It is controlled by the patients own nervous system an has every degree of freedom a normal hand has. There are 54 processors in the hand alone. It would be great for an artist. It unfortunatly is still a prototype unless you have enough determination to get into the testing program. I wish you luck, as I woud like to see everyone benifit from this program asap.
  • by camg188 ( 932324 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:48PM (#43671001)
    You ever read "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"? I'd want one like Manny's, with interchangeable tools.
    • I was thinking something more like Gil Vela's "people suit" from Growing Up Weightless (another fine moon novel).
  • by PaddyM ( 45763 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:11PM (#43671145) Homepage

    I saw some things here: [] []

    I'm not sure if it would work for an artist, but it is supposed to be low-cost.

  • Nothing beats the traditional snap-on appendage.

    First go watch Kentucky Fried Movie [] or "Enter the Dragon []" or "Innerspace []" (note the "Robert Picardo character". That should give you some ideas.

  • Just like amputee athletes have prosthetic legs specialized for running which they don't use for walking around on a day-to-day basis, she might benefit from a prosthetic specifically made to hold a paintbrush, or one where the end of it actually is a paintbrush. That could be both cheaper and more usable than a prosthetic hand which attempts to use intricate finger controls to try to hold a paintbrush.

  • A simple clip to hold the paintbrush is sufficient. In fine arts painting, the finger tips are still, and most of the guidance comes from the arm and body movements as in classical fencing. Monet in old age had very gnarled hands from arthritic joints and had to have his family strap the long handled brushes to his wrists so that he could continue painting in the loveliness of his gardens.
  • ... prosthetic hand looks for YOU!

  • The vast overwhelming majority of users would look for accurate fast repeatable action.

    After all, The Internet Is For Porn.
  • I hate to be a downer here but my father recently went through such a procedure, losing his primary hand. He ended up getting an elaborate top of the line mechanical hand that uses the nerves that would go to your hand to move the hand.

    The thing was junk, really. It ended up being pretty fragile overall, and while kind of neat that he could control the hand with the impulses from his nerves, it was very non-fluid and limited. I mean what can you expect really, right? He prefers to just use the stump on his

    • Thanks for sharing the experience. The recoup/rehab period is expected to be at least 2 years, so I'm sure we'll have time to look into different options and what they provide. As it turns out, another family member knows some people that work in counseling and peer-mentoring for amputees. There's a lot for everybody involved to learn, both patient and family/carers.
  • Since that whas what Like had in his...

  • While we are talking of artificial limbs replacing real limbs, how about lasers in iach finger like Timothy Zahn's Cobra warriors

    Theres a new book coming out next week - Cobra Slave but I haven't read it yet, I will wait for the final installment before downloading it.from Baen
    remeber if you want to save money on the monthly bundle you have to purchase before the 15th

  • Instant middle finger extension

  • Of my enemies.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.