AI powers the way for improved lives

Devices help those who have lost body parts to regain abilities

Wang Chaofeng lost both hands and forearms in an accident more than 25 years ago when he was fixing a high-voltage wires while serving in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in Jinan, Shandong province.

“In the past two decades, I have gradually accepted the reality and learned to live with it,” said Wang, 48. “But I still long to use my hands to do things, just like other people.”

He tried artificial limbs, but said they could only perform a simple pincer-like movement. “I looked up some electronically controlled prostheses, but they were all too expensive,” he said.

But things changed for Wang last year, when OYMotion Technologies, a Chinese startup, contacted him to take part in testing the company’s prototype of a myoelectric artificial arm, an externally powered device controlled by electric signals generated by the user’s muscles.

With two sensors embedded in his upper arms along with battery-powered mechanical hands, Wang can control the prothesis to perform more than a dozen different grips.

“I was thrilled the first time I wore the robotic hands,” he said. “I just need to think what gesture I want to make, then they will do it for me.”

Wang was so happy that he uploaded footage to the short-video platform Douyin that showed him arm wrestling and shaking hands with others using the new prostheses. He received hundreds of likes and inquiries.

“I want more people like me to know that new technologies are here to help us,” he said.

With technological advances in robotics and artificial intelligence in recent years, more and more companies in China are eyeing the market for assistive devices and introducing more affordable smart products for people with disabilities.

In OYMotion’s office in Shanghai’s Yangpu district, Ni Hualiang and his team are busy fine-tuning myoelectric prostheses.