App lets amputees program bionic hands
PHILADELPHIA — Double-amputee Jason Koger used to fly hundreds of miles to visit a clinician when he wanted to adjust the grips on his bionic hands.
Now, he's got an app.
Koger came to Philadelphia this week to demonstrate the i-limb ultra revolution, a prosthetic developed by British firm Touch Bionics. Using a stylus and an iPhone, Koger can choose any of 24 grip patterns that best suit his needs.
It's the latest evolution in equipment for Koger, a 34-year-old married father of three from Owensboro, Ky., who lost his hands in an all-terrain vehicle accident in 2008.
“Five years ago, I couldn't pull my pants up by myself,” said Koger. “Today, I go hunting and do some of the things that I probably never imagined I could have done five years ago.”
The technology indicates how rapidly the field of prosthetics is changing, benefiting patients from wounded military members to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Practitioners say increased government research in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is driving some of the advances.
In Koger's case, he was shocked by a downed power line. He went into a coma and had no idea until he woke up three days later that doctors had amputated both his limbs at mid-forearm.
His wife spent those three days researching prosthetics, Koger said.
Since then, he's used a variety of prostheses, which he considers like tools — different extensions for different tasks. Electric hooks have allowed him to pursue his passion for hunting. Myoelectric hands, which react to electrical impulses generated by his remaining arm muscles, offer more precise movements.
The previous version of Koger's myoelectric device required programming by a prosthetist, meaning Koger had to fly to Advanced Arm Dynamics in Dallas. The prosthetist would work with Koger to pick a few grip patterns — such as pinching, pointing or shaking hands — to program into the i-limb.
Yet sometimes Koger would get home and realize they weren't the ones he needed. Now, the latest i-limb comes with an iPhone or iPad app that allows Koger to reprogram his hand with the touch of a stylus. On Thursday, he demonstrated by gripping an orange, a baseball and a can of soda.
The i-limb lets fingers and thumbs move independently to conform around certain objects, said Ryan Spill, a prosthetist for Advanced Arm Dynamics' office in Philadelphia, who is working with Koger. The thumb is also motorized, not passive, as in previous prostheses.
The i-limb ultra revolution costs about $100,000, though some insurance might cover it. Koger, who received his free in exchange for testing them and providing feedback, met Friday in Philadelphia with other amputees interested in the new technology.
Mark Dowling, 50, of Newark, Del., lost his arm to cancer several months ago. He said he cried while watching Koger demonstrate how the hand worked.
“I'm very touched with his story,” Dowling said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shareholder vote causes ATI to review executive pay packages
- Murray, Alpha notify West Virginia coal miners of layoffs
- Electric versions of Asian rickshaw paves their way into U.S. market
- Wal-Mart presses meat, egg suppliers on antibiotics, animal treatment
- Truck ducts keep blowing out hot air
- Look for 1st rate hike this year, Yellen says
- 5 battles the ’16 Camaro needs to win
- Low price sparks sales run
- Developer hopes to make Allegheny Center a tech hub
- Stocks end quiet week with loss
- Pa. sees widespread job gains; jobless rate holds at 5.3%