The bionic hand can be updated with new gestures, anytime, anywhere

Jessica Smith poses during a training session while using her new bionic hand in London on August 12.

LEEDS, England (Reuters) – Australian swimmer Jessica Smith has had a difficult relationship with prosthetics since a childhood accident, but her beliefs are challenged by a British bionic hand that can be remotely updated anywhere in the world .

The 2004 Athens Paralympian was born without a left hand.

Her parents were advised to fit a prosthesis to help her develop, but the device caused her to knock over a boiling kettle as a toddler, resulting in burns to 15 per cent of her body.

“There’s always been an association between the fact that this prosthetic aid didn’t actually help, it created the most traumatic event of my life,” she said.

But her curiosity was aroused when she was approached by Covvi, based in Leeds, in the north of England, to try her Nexus luck.

Knowing it would be an emotional challenge, Smith was fitted with the device in April at the age of 37. “I think I was ready to try something like that,” she said.

Bionic hands convert electrical impulses from muscles in the upper arm into movements powered by motors in the hand, allowing a user to hold a drink, open a door or pick up an egg.

Simon Pollard, who founded Covvi five years ago, said he wanted to add Bluetooth to the device to allow company specialists to update it via an app.

“The fact that we can change some of the things that the customer wants remotely is a really powerful thing and a first in the market,” the CEO said.

Some rival bionic hands can be controlled by an app, but Pollard said the ability to talk to a single device sets the Nexus apart.

To do this, anonymized data is collected for each user, a task managed by the partner NetApp.

Pollard said Covvi has signed 27 distributors around the world, including Australia, China and the United States, and is aiming to increase monthly production to 100.

Smith, who is a children’s speaker and author, said Covvi is already creating new movements for her.

“A few kids asked me if I could do different hand gestures, some polite, some less polite,” she said. “I asked Covvi this morning, and I know it will be done in the next few hours.”

She said the technology wasn’t just changing her life, it was changing the lives of her three children.

“They think it’s amazing and I’m like a half-human robot,” she said.

She said the hand’s “bionic” appearance was an attraction, given her pride in difference.

“I’m not trying to hide who I am,” she said. “I add and expand who I am by being able to access technology that has never been available before.”

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