Technology September 7, 2020
Prosthetic hand Grippy gives amputees sense of touch, grip control at affordable prices
Vasai-based start-up Robo Bionics has developed a range of affordable prosthetics called Grippy that aim to help below the elbow amputees feel a sense of touch, grip control and offer adaptive shape control that is user-specific.
It was while he was pursuing an MTech degree at the Indian Institute of Technology – Patna (IIT-P) that Llewellyn Dsa, Co-founder, Robo Bionics, got the idea of working on developing a prosthetic hand.
“I had a classmate who did not have hands due to a birth defect and seeing him struggle I was struck by the fact that engineers were not able to help people with such issue solve their problems”, recalls Llewellyn.
That led him to eventually found Robo Bionics, a start-up that offers a range of affordable prosthetics. Based in Vasai, outside Mumbai, Robo Bionics is supported by IIT-P as well as the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B).
Grippy targeted at below elbow amputees
Grippy, a Robo Bionics product, aims to address the issues below elbow amputees face with the technologies that are currently available in the Indian market.
Grippy is really meant for people with below elbow amputation. There are close to 16 lakh people in India with hand amputation of which 65% have below elbow amputation. Grippy is targeted at these people. In the initial testing phase, it was found to be effective for people with wrist amputation as well. So, it can be adapted as we deploy it in the market for people with above elbow amputation. – Llewellyn Dsa, Co-founder, Robo Bionics
Llewellyn and his team spent substantial time researching the Indian scenario while developing Grippy. “While developing it for my friend, I happened to write my thesis and investigation the situation across India and found there was a problem”, he says.
One major gap was the lack of awareness. IIT Patna, where Llewellyn was studying, is surrounded by many villages. “We found people had no idea there were devices that would help them cope with day to day life”.
Issues with available prosthetics
What also became evident is that existing prosthetics posed many limitations.
“Like the Jaipur Foot, there are cosmetic hands that are fitted into the residual limb but have no function”, Llewellyn points out. “At the other end of the spectrum are Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO) devices that are cheaper but offer limited movement as these are body powered so need a particular movement to open or close”.
Battery operated devices, starting at over one lakh and going up to ₹ 25 lakh, are beyond the reach of most Indians. Then there’s the additional issue that these devices have to be fitted by experts approved of by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). There are only 2,500 such professionals certified by RCI in the country.
Grippy overcome these issues. One it is affordable. A basic prosthetic of Grippy is priced at ₹60,000, while an advanced one can cost up to ₹75,000. An RCI-approved professional makes the socket that connects the part between Grippy and the user’s hand. The cost for the socket could range from ₹25,000 to ₹50,000.
“We wanted to make a device that is quick for professionals to fit”, says Llewellyn. With Grippy, the fitting time is a day which means more users can be catered to.
Grippy also offers feedback, something other products in this price range don’t offer. It offers a sense of touch so the user can track the object, differentiate between objects and feel the force of the grip they are exerting. All this is done in a non-invasive manner requiring no surgeries or implants.
Grippy has been tested on 15 users in an internal pilot study and is currently undergoing vigorous testing in Pune at a lab accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). There are plans to launch it in the market later this year.
The feedback from users is encouraging. Suraj Sharma, who lives near Patna, cut his right hand in a threshing machine some years ago. “I find Grippy very comfortable and it looks good too. I faced some issues using it on the first day but not after that”.
21-year-old Suphal Kumar, who lost his left hand at the age of seven, says he learned to use Grippy in less than 15 minutes. “This is easy tow wear and light to hold. I would like the weight to be even lighter if possible”.
Budhal Ram, 50 years old, says he can resume all the activities he was forced to stop after losing his left hand in an accident seven years ago. “I can carry heavy objects, wield a hammer and work in the field like earlier. It is very comfortable to wear too”.
- Triple amputee & fitness trainer Tinkesh Kaushik is dedicated to helping people stay healthy
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