Bionic arm helps woman born with underdeveloped arm perform everyday tasks

While holding a wine glass or delivering a firm handshake with either hand may be everyday actions for the ordinary person, they are a novelty for Nicky Ashwell, who was born with a partially developed right arm, The Daily Mirror reported.

For the first time in her life, Ashwell, 29, can perform those tasks due to a cutting-edge bionic arm that uses technology to track and sense each finger’s movement, and replicate the performance of a real hand using 337 mechanical parts. Unlike previous crude robotics, the bebionic small arm has magnets that improve speed and strength, as well as ‘bubble’ fingertips for precision in the handling of objects.

“It sounds silly but it was just something simple when I was able to hold the pole on the train. That was the first real ‘wow’ moment,” Ashwell, of Surrey, in the United Kingdom, told the news website. “It’s actually the small things that you do every day— which you don’t really think about— that in the end make such a huge difference.”

Ashwell, who was born with a right arm that stopped developing slightly below her elbow, said the technology has enabled her to do activities she couldn’t as a child.

“I would have loved as a kid to have been able to learn the piano. I do play the guitar to a limited extent, but not having a hand does hold you back,” she told The Daily Mirror. “There were sports I wasn’t very confident getting involved in because I was conscious how awkward I would be catching a ball.”

Her bionic arm, which was developed using military and Formula 1 car technology, retails for about $11,000 and weighs the same as a can of baked beans. Its 14 precision grips are  triggered from signals from the arm muscle and released only when the wearer sends a second signal, a feature that requires minimal concentration from the user.

The makers of the bebionic small hand say their technology has the potential to transform the lives of 3 million amputees. For Ashwell, it’s done just that.

“I realized that I had been making life challenging for myself when I didn’t need to,” she told the news website. “The movements now come easily and look natural. I keep finding myself being surprised by the little things, like being able to carry my purse while holding my boyfriend’s hand.”

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