Australian swimmer Jessica Smith has had an tumultuous relationship with prostheses since a childhood accident, but her beliefs are being challenged by a British bionic hand. can be updated remotely from anywhere in the world.
The 2004 Athens Paralympic athlete was born without a left hand.
Her parents were advised to match a prosthetics to help with her growth, but the device caused her to damage a boiling kettle when she was a toddler, causing 15% burns of her body.
She said: ‘There’s always been a connection between the fact this prosthetic didn’t really help, it created the most traumatic event of my life.
But her curiosity was piqued when she was approached by Covvi, based in Leeds, northern England, to try out its Nexus.
Knowing it would be an emotional challenge, Smith was fitted with the device in April at the age of 37. “I think I’m ready to try something like this,” she said.
The biological hand converts electrical impulses from the muscles in the arm into motion powered by a motor in the hand, allowing the user to hold a glass, open a door or pick up an egg.
Simon Pollard, who founded Covvi 5 years ago, said he wanted to add Bluetooth into the device to allow the company’s experts to update it via an app.
“The fact that we can change some of the things that customers want remotely is a really powerful thing and a first to market,” the CEO said.
Some of the opponent’s biological hands can be controlled with an app, but Pollard says the ability to talk to a single device sets the Nexus apart.
To do that, anonymous data is collected for every user, a task managed by a NetApp partner.
Pollard said Covvi has signed up 27 distributors globally, including in Australia, China and the United States, and he aims to increase monthly production to 100.
Smith, a children’s speaker and author, says Covvi has created new movements for her.
“I’ve had a few kids ask if I could make different hand gestures, some polite, some not so polite,” she said. “I asked Covvi this morning, and I know it will be done in the next few hours.”
She said technology has not only changed her life, but also the lives of her three children.
“They think it’s awesome and I’m like half-human, half-robot,” she said.
She said the “bionic” appearance of her hands was an attraction, making her proud of the difference.
“I’m not trying to hide who I am,” she said. “I’m adding and expanding who I am by having access to technology like never before.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022