Chinese 'Alita': 25-year-old man's robot hand looks like those seen in fantasy movies

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Hu's bionic hand (Photo/ Chengdu Economic Daily- Dfic)

Mar. 14 (NBD) -- The recent movie by James Cameron Alita: Battle Angel stars a "bionic girl" with robotic arms and superman fighting powers. A young man in Luzhou, southwest China's Sichuan province, has been fitted with a bionic hand which looks just like those seen in sci-fi movies.

The man, surnamed Hu, was knocked out by an electrical shock at work two years ago. He survived the accident after one-week emergency treatment in hospital, but unfortunately lost his left hand and left leg.

"I went to pieces," Hu recalled. He was newly married at the time and his wife was two months pregnant. "I couldn't accept the fact for a long time."

Being hospitalized for half a year, Hu consulted a doctor about the possibility to receive an artificial limb. Zhou Yong, prosthetist at West China Hospital of Sichuan University, recommended the lifelike bionic hand, with which the young man can recover certain self-care ability.  

Hu took the advice and became the first person to get an intelligent prosthetic hand in southwest China.

Viewed from the outside, Hu's left hand is covered with a layer of soft silicone. Every joint of the hand can move following Hu's "command", such as making a fist or opening the palm.

Inside, the most important part is the electrodes. Electrodes implanted in the remaining arm muscles can detect a person's intent to move, so when the intents are converted into digital commands, the motors in a hand prosthesis can move, Zhou explained.

With the assistance of the robot hand, Hu is able to handle almost anything in an average day, such as grabbing an object, holding a phone, washing his face, and even driving. Most importantly, he can hold his son and daughter in arms with some help.

"With batteries and mechanical parts inside, the bionic hand weighs around 1 kilogram," Hu said. Every day, he needs to take off the hand and charge the battery which lasts 8 hours at one charge. When he puts the hand back on, his 3-year-old son will curiously cry, "Daddy is growing a hand," and his little girl will grab the robot hand and observe closely.

A bionic hand can restore a patient's mobility by 50-60 percent, and even up to 70 percent at the ideal state, Zhou said.

Soothed and accompanied by his family, Hu has walked out of the shadow and desperation of the accident two year ago and gradually accepts the prosthetic hand.

"I have my parents, my wife and my children. I have to think for them. Life goes on," Hu said.


Email: gaohan@nbd.com.cn