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OY Motion bets big on bionic hand exports

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-23 09:36

A man uses his bionic hand to lift a bottle of water during a charity event held by OY Motion for the Shanghai Foundation for Disabled Persons on July 16.[Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

Supported by homegrown sensors and artificial intelligence technologies, an entirely homemade bionic hand ready for mass production will reach overseas markets this year to benefit those who lost their hands, a senior company executive said.

The product can enable its user to move the 10 fingers and all of the joints and is able to conduct around 20 motions in accordance with its user's command, including grasping, holding, squeezing and eating with chopsticks, Ni Hualiang, founder and general manager of OY Motion, said during an exclusive interview with China Daily last week.

The first international recipients where the product will be exported are Turkey, Egypt and Russia.

"The main reason that we took those countries into consideration was that the disabled persons there encountered similar situations as their counterparts in China. There is a higher proportion of suffering from their disability but lower purchasing power. Many choose not to resort to an artificial limb. Our products may present a larger value in those markets," Ni said.

He said enterprises and industry associations in other countries and regions in South America, Africa and Europe had also approached the firm for the product.

Ni said the company established in Shanghai's Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park in 2015 had already reached strategic collaboration partnerships with a major component provider of artificial limbs in Turkey and a rehabilitation center for the disabled with artificial limbs in Egypt.

The two will help OY Motion to expand in local markets and they are responsible for sales and after-sales service.

The sales target in the three overseas markets totaled 300 to 500 this year and 3,000 next year, Ni said.

Technological indicators of the 700-gram product which has 280 components and multiple motors performed the same or even better than most advanced international industrial versions, the company said.

Compared with two similar products publicly recognized to represent the best industry standard internationally, the homegrown product is equipped with up to eight sensors while their competitors only have two.

The sensors obtain nerve signals in the skin when the brain sends an order for movement, Ni explained.

The AI system will study the signals to understand what kind of gesture the user wants to make and pass on the user's intention to the machine.

"Empowered by machine learning, the longer someone uses the bionic hand, the more precisely the machine will present the motion that the user wants and the collaboration between the person and the 'hand' will become smoother," said Ni.

Imported bionic hands are priced between 300,000 yuan ($42,900) and 500,000 yuan each and few among the disabled can afford them, said Liu Jianhua, vice chairman of the Shanghai Foundation for Disabled Persons. The pricing of the domestic product at this time is around 100,000 yuan each.

There are more than 10 million people in China suffering from upper limb disabilities, data from the China Disabled Persons' Federation showed.

Zhang Yuecheng, 39, was born without a left hand and has used the bionic hand for four months. He said he can now open water bottles, shake hands with others and carry bags smoothly with it.

"More importantly, it helped shorten the psychological distance between me and others and filled me with confidence," the professional painter in Shanghai said.

Zhang explained he used to make most of the movements that other people make with their hands in his own way, like holding something under an arm or with the help of his chin. Now he can make such motions with "both hands" just like everyone else.

Ni said the product is expected to be used for service robots in the future so they will be able to open doors and fulfill more tasks in different scenarios.

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