App lets amputees program their own bionic hands

Updated 05 May 2013
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App lets amputees program their own bionic hands

PHILADELPHIA: Double-amputee Jason Koger used to fly to visit a clinician when he wanted to adjust the grips on his bionic hands. Now, he’s got an app instead.
Koger this week demonstrated the i-limb ultra revolution, a prosthetic developed by the British firm Touch Bionics. Using a stylus and an iPhone, Koger can choose any of 24 grip patterns that best suit his needs.
It’s the latest evolution in equipment for Koger, who lost his hands in an all-terrain vehicle accident in 2008.
“Five years ago, I couldn’t pull my pants up by myself,” said Koger, 34. “Today, I go hunting and do some of the things that I probably never imagined I could have done five years ago.”
The technology indicates how rapidly the field of prosthetics is changing, benefiting patients from injured military members to victims of last month’s Boston Marathon bombing. Practitioners say increased government research in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is driving some of the advances.
Koger received an electric shock after running into a downed power line. He went into a coma and had no idea until he woke up three days later that doctors had amputated both his limbs at mid-forearm. Since then, he’s used a variety of prostheses, which he considers like tools — different extensions for different tasks. Electric hooks have allowed him to pursue his passion for hunting. Myoelectric hands, which react to electrical impulses generated by his remaining arm muscles, offer more precise movements.
The previous version of Koger’s myoelectric device required programming by a prosthetist, meaning Koger had to fly to Advanced Arm Dynamics in Dallas. The prosthetist would work with Koger to pick a few grip patterns — such as pinching, pointing or shaking hands — to program into the i-limb.
Yet sometimes Koger would get home and realize they weren’t the ones he needed. Now, the latest i-limb comes with an iPhone or iPad app that allows Koger to reprogram his hand with the touch of a stylus. On Thursday, he demonstrated by gripping an orange, a baseball and a can of soda.
The i-limb allows fingers and thumbs move independently to conform around certain objects, said Ryan Spill, a prosthetist for Advanced Arm Dynamics who is working with Koger. The thumb is also motorized, not passive, as in previous prostheses.
The Boston Marathon bombings, which wounded more than 260 people, including many with serious leg injuries, have shined a light on the advances in prostheses. But experts note that technology for upper extremity bionics, which involve fine motor skills, is much different from what’s needed for lower extremities, which focus on weight distribution and gait.
There have also been huge advances in computerized knees and feet, said Joe Reda, assistant director of orthotic and prosthetic services at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey.
“The changes are happening rather rapidly now, and I think it’s because of our wars overseas,” said Reda. “The government is trying to put more money into research and development.”
The i-limb ultra revolution costs about $ 100,000, though some insurance might cover it. Koger received his free in exchange for testing them and providing feedback. He met Friday with other amputees interested in the new technology.
Mark Dowling, 50, lost his arm to cancer several months ago. He said he cried while watching Koger demonstrate how the hand worked.
“I’m very touched with his story,” Dowling said.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.