Bionic hands

What is a bionic hand exactly?

Prosthetic limbs are an incredibly innovative type of technology and can change a person’s life if they are unfortunate enough to lose and arm or a leg. However, as good as they are, artificial limbs aren’t a complete like-for-like replacement for flesh and bone. Their main downfall is a difficulty in communicating with the central nervous system making prosthetics often seem unresponsive and unnatural. A technology seeking to change this is the bionic hand. A £1.4 million research project led by Newcastle University, these electronic devices connect to the body’s nervous system much more efficiently than current prosthetics.

Bionic Hands

How does it work?   

The aim of the bionic hand is to replace the injured hand in the most lifelike way possible. The device uses electrodes to link with nerve endings in the arm even if they have been badly damaged or even severed by an injury. A connection with the body’s neural network will allow effective two-way communications with the brain. The link will be instant making moving the hand feel as natural as possible. Proprioception will be it would be nornally so if the person is blindfolded, they will still sense where the bionic limb is in relation to the rest of their body. With this technology, the user will be able to hold glasses of water without breaking or fumbling them and pick up fruit with ease. There will also be fingertip sensors that to give a realistic sense of touch. This will be especially important for pateints with neurological disorders.

Bionic Hands

How will it change things?

Once these enhanced functions are learnt by the user, the bionic hand will be much, much better than a standard plug and socket prosthetic. The project began in February 2015 and is still ongoing. Experts from Essex, Keele and Southamption Universities as well as Imperial College London have also joined the project and upon completion, it will be a game-changer.


All images credit Newcastle University.


Discover more on the bionic hand in our amazing Star Wars tech feature in  issue 93 of How It Works, on sale 30 November!

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