Developed in Bristol in the UK, the Hero Arm is a “lightweight and affordable myoelectric prosthesis”, available for below-elbow amputee adults and children aged eight and above. Functionality includes grabbing, pinching, high-fives, fist bumps, and a thumbs-up – a function Tilly uses constantly to underline her optimistic worldview.
As Open Bionics puts it, “Welcome to the future, where disabilities are superpowers.” And this, says Tilly, is just the beginning.
“If this is what they have developed in five years, if you think forward a decade, it will be absolutely insane. Only a decade ago I was wearing literally just a loop, and 10 years later I have 3D-printed Hero Arms. Ten years down the line I think I’ll have jetpacks. I can’t wait for people to walk around with bionics because it is an enhancement and looks cool. That is definitely going to be the future.”
Surprisingly, in a world where teenagers are typecast as demanding instant gratification, she is not impatient for this future.
“It’s really fun building up to future, talking about what we can do, and where we can start now. We’re already in talks about different models. I have some with lights in; it is available. All these little changes are going to keep building up until, in the end, they are better than human arms. I’m excited for that but not impatient, because I’m working on what we are doing now.”
She is no passive consumer of the technology either.
“Open Bionics really believe in co-design. They can build it but can’t test it. So it’s up to users to give honest feedback. One thing I did invent that I’m proud of that I use on a daily basis is the freeze mode. If I’m holding something tight, because its muscle-operated, it could trigger a false sense, like shivering, and if you’re holding a glass bowl, it smashes. So we said is there any way we could get the hand stuck and not change.
“Now how it works is when you’re squeezing something, you hold a button down, it beeps and turns blue, then no matter what you do with your muscles, the fingers don’t open until you press the button again. It gives amputees and users of Hero Arms extra control, so it’s a practical invention.”
Click here to read about the science fiction that inspires Tilly.