It is estimated that more than 10 million people are living with limb loss, with main causes being vascular disease, trauma and cancer. In the US approximately 185,000 amputations occur each year, and arm loss is the second most common after the partial hand amputation. With increased focus on quality of life, prosthetic devices can be a tool to help overcome daily challenges that individuals with limb loss meet in their daily lives.
The startup PSYONIC aim to deliver advanced, neurally-controlled prostethic hands with more functionality and lower cost than the current prostheses on the market. By leveraging 3D-printing, they are able to produce prostheses for one-tenth the price of comparable devices, and can offer customization to fit the needs and preferences of individuals. Employing machine learning algorithms, their prostheses can recognize different patterns of muscle activity from the user’s residual limb. The company’s prostheses are also capable of sensory feedback. The fingertips are equipped with highly sensitive touch sensor, which relays information through electrical stimulation on the residual limb that feels like a vibration or pressure.
While the vast majority of commercial prosthetic hands only open and close, PSYONIC use pattern recognition algorithms that allow finer control. The prosthetics can among others use the index and thumb to maneuver small objects, or a power grasp which can be used for shaking hands grabbing a bottle of water.
The company’s technological solutions are without a doubt impressive, but it is their vision and focus on the patient that makes their prosthetics unique. They have an understanding of the patient and their unmet need, and the technology is a solution to that specific problem. No commercial prosthesis has ever been able to relay the feeling of touch back to a person with an amputation, and PSYONIC have the opportunity to significantly improve quality of life to many people living with a prosthetic hand.
With their vision of providing prostheses with sensory feedback at a lower cost, their work has not gone unnoticed. In 2015, they won $10,000 for the 1st place in Cozad New Venture Competition, and an additional $15,000 as part of Samsung Research Innovation Prize. They have also been awarded $10,000 in the iVenture Accelerator program. It is clear that the startup has an exciting future it will be interesting to follow.