Utah Company Making Electronic Prosthetics

Utah Company Making Electronic Prosthetics

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Ed Yeates ReportingAron Ralston, the climber who amputated his own arm to escape being pinned by a boulder, is now ready to be fitted with a prosthetic hand. The process begins tomorrow in Denver. And one new device he's considering was developed and made by a Utah company.

Even though it's been only five months since Milton Jenkins lost his hand, he's quickly learned how to use this new generation electric prosthesis to tie flies, a 50-year-old hobby he thought he would have to give up after the accident.

As he moves his muscles on his arm just below the elbow the prosthetic device obeys the commands.

Milton Jenkins: "I can open it, act like I'm opening it, and the pinchers will open. I can close it and it will sense those muscles and close that. So opening is off this sensor here, and closing is off this sensor here."

The hand does whatever its user wants from delicately tying flies, holding a cup or a glass, or pinching and holding on real tight.

Dr. Harold Sears, Motion Control: "This device can grip well over twenty pounds of pinch force. You and I for the most part can get up maybe fifteen on a good day - a little above that with our highest strength."

It's that kind of versatility Aron Ralston may want if he decides to hike again. The terminals on the prosthetics are interchangeable.

Sears: "They switch between them just as you and I would switch to a different pair of shoes depending on where we're walking."

Another advantage of the electric hands, especially for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, is that they're waterproof. Even more remarkable, upcoming prosthetic devices will have a sense of touch that will automatically adjust the grip.

Sears: "A sense of touch or a grip force feedback. And I think we'll be seeing the first versions of grip force feedback perhaps from our company before too long."

Touch, grip, rotating wrists, interchangeable hands. Aron Ralston is about to choose what he wants from a state of the art that's at it's best and rapidly getting better.

A team of experts will be in Denver tomorrow, working with Ralston, to find out exactly what he needs - what fits his lifestyle.

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