Dexterous New Prosthetic Hands

Researchers are developing mechanical mitts with better grip

FluidHand

Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg

No, we're still not up to the level of Luke's mechanical hand in Star Wars, but progress does seem to be accelerating. The i-LIMB, from Touch Bionics, debuted last year, and German researchers recently tested it against a new prototype, the Fluidhand. The researchers say both are more dexterous than the industry standard, given that the individual fingers of the mechanical hands can be controlled independently.

A patient at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg tried out the i-LIMB and the Fluidhand, and found both to be an improvement over the other models. The battery-powered i-LIMB picks up muscle signals from the patient's stump, and translates them into movement. The Fluidhand is powered by hydraulics, and reportedly makes it easier to grip and hold on to certain objects.

Apparently the patient gave the Fluidhand the edge, but it's not marked for commercial production just yet.