A helping hand, with a difference
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A helping hand, with a difference

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Wu Zheng'an works as a testing specialist in a company in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

Company device allows those who lost a limb to retake control of their lives, reports He Qi in Shanghai.

After losing his left forearm during a workplace accident a few years ago, Wu Zheng'an fell into a depression and was constantly worried that he would never be able to work again.

"I couldn't accept the new reality," recalls the 37-year-old, who was operating a crusher at a construction site in Guangdong province when the accident occurred. "I even advised my wife to divorce me because I didn't want to be a burden to her."

For a long while, Wu had to survive on the support provided by his family as he couldn't find a proper job.

But he finally caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel in March 2020 when he chanced upon a video clip of a smart bionic hand called OHand on social media platform Douyin.

Wu did not hesitate to give the product a go, and he now describes that decision as life-changing.

Unlike traditional artificial limbs, OHand has signal sensors that track changes in skin morphology and intention signals related to finger movements transmitted through muscles. The signals are then sent through the skin to the bionic fingers.


Wu Zheng'an plays snooker at a local game room in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

Created by Shanghai-based OYMotion Technologies, OHand weighs just 495 grams and allows users to perform dozens of tasks like pinching and holding chopsticks.

Although the bionic hand is priced at 118,000 yuan ($16,414), the company offered the device for a bargain price of 38,000 yuan to the Shanghai Disabled Persons' Federation, and local residents pay just 3,800 yuan, with the rest covered by the federation. The device was listed in the subsidy catalog for conventional aids for the disabled last year.

Authorities in Hunan province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region are developing a policy, under which users pay 10 percent of the cost, with local government subsidizing the balance.

Though Wu is a Guangxi native, he was given a 30,000 yuan discount by OYMotion Technologies so that he could cover the rest of the cost using the insurance payout for the accident.


Using a smart bionic hand, Wu was able to ride a bike and live an easier and better quality life. CHINA DAILY

Completing people

Wu received nearly two hours of training after successfully connecting to the bionic hand and became proficient in using the device within a week. Today, he is able to perform basic tasks like typing, retrieving items using his new hand, and even riding a bike.

Six months after receiving his bionic hand, Wu found a food delivery job in Zhanjiang, Guangdong. A while later, he landed a job as a testing specialist at OYMotion Technologies.

"I have finally found some stability in life as I now have a monthly income. This has improved my family's living conditions to a great extent," Wu says. "A lot of people don't know about this technology, so part of the reason I'm doing it is to recommend this hand to more people in need.

"I once met a user in Fujian province. His wife said he hadn't spoken for nearly a month before I met him. He worried about getting a job, whether his wife would leave him, and how he would raise his children. After we introduced the bionic hand to him and helped him adapt, he became optimistic and found a job!"

Another person who has benefited from OHand is Pang Qilong, who was born in Fuyang, Anhui province, with congenital palm deformity. For most of his life, Pang felt as if his body was not "complete", but that changed when he learned about the bionic hand after coming to Shanghai to attend college a few years ago.

"What this bionic hand has given me is not just another limb. It has allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream and given me confidence in life. It is these intangible things that matter the most," says Pang, who currently does market research on the investment sector at an office in Lujiazui in Pudong New Area, the financial hub of Shanghai.

Giving others the opportunity to change their lives the way Wu and Pang have was one of the main reasons why Ni Hualiang, the founder of OYMotion Technologies, started his company.

"In addition to being able to solve daily issues, another purpose of the bionic hand is to meet the psychological needs of customers and make them more confident," Ni says.

But the bigger goal, he points out, is to help more people with physical challenges find proper employment. He notes that despite the preferential policies implemented by the central and provincial governments, it is still relatively difficult for these people to find jobs in today's highly competitive society.

Official statistics show that the total number of disabled people in China was about 85.02 million. Among them, 24.72 million had limb disabilities.

"I hope that through advanced technology, we are able to do more in life and work," he says.


Using a smart bionic hand, Wu was able to ride a bike and live an easier and better quality life. CHINA DAILY

Expanding reach

Looking ahead, one of the main objectives of the company is to reduce the cost of the bionic hand to benefit more people.

Today, the most widely used bionic hands in the world are the Bebionic and i-LIMB invented by Steeper Group and Touch Bionics respectively. Both companies, which were established around 2010, were eventually acquired by industry leaders Ottobock and Ossur respectively.

Ni points out that the market is currently still dominated by prohibitively expensive devices made by foreign companies. Ni says, an OHand device is just 15 percent of the cost of a Bebionic or i-LIMB device, and this affordability is one way it will stand out from the competition.

Ni says that the ability to create more affordable bionic hands lies in the fact that all the components, except for the chip, are developed in-house. OYMotion Technologies, which can mass-produce bionic hands, has sold about 400 OHand units.

"We are working closely with partners in foreign markets, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and India, where many people with physical challenges cannot afford big-name bionic hand brands," Ni says.

In the future, Ni says the company will continue to upgrade smart bionic hands and provide users with more compact and flexible products. At the same time, it is committed to the development of brain electrical and muscle exoskeleton products. This year, upper limb intelligent exoskeleton training instrument products have been launched.

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Established in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in 2015, OYMotion Technologies Co.,Ltd. is a high-tech startup in Shanghai.
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