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  1. ITV Report

Bionic hand created that 'sees' objects and grips 'within milliseconds'

  • Video report by ITV News North of England Correspondent Damon Green

A revolutionary bionic hand has been developed that "sees" objects and instantly decides what grip to adopt.

The device, trialled at the University of Newcastle, could lead to a new generation of prosthetic limbs giving the wearer the ability to reach for objects without thinking, scientists have said.

A camera fitted to the hand rapidly takes a picture of the object in front it, feeding back the information to its "brain".

The new technology - based on artificial intelligence - enables the hand to automatically assesses an object's shape and size "within milliseconds", and decides whether to adopt a light pinch or a firm grip.

The i-Limb was the first bionic hand with independently moving fingers. Credit: AP

Dr Kianoush Nazarpour, a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering at the university, said: "Responsiveness has been one of the main barriers to artificial limbs.

"For many amputees the reference point is their healthy arm or leg so prosthetics seem slow and cumbersome in comparison.

"Now, for the first time in a century, we have developed an 'intuitive' hand that can react without thinking."

Around 600 people in the UK suffer the loss of upper limbs each year, while in the US, there are 500,000 new upper limb amputees.

Doug McIntosh was among the first to trial the new hand. Credit: ITV News

Amputee athlete Doug McIntosh, 56, was among the first to try out the new "seeing hand", and described the experience as "mind-boggling".

The Scottish father-of-three from Aberdeen lost his right hand and forearm to cancer in 1997 and has previously used prosthesis that could only be opened, closed or rotated.

He told ITV News: "It's going to make a huge difference [to my life].

"The whole concept of this hand is going to the next boundary of science and bionics.

"There were a few emotions running through my mind at the time [when I put the hand on]. It brought me back 20 years. There was excitement actually making this thing move and I was so amazed by the whole thing.

"I'm really proud and privileged to be part of that team [who trialled the hand]."

He said his wife, Diane, who watched the trials, was "quite amazed."