GamesBeat: How does that work? There’s a certain point where you’re changing what you do with the arm, and that helps you control it.
Melville: It’s the pulses in your arm, the muscles in your arm. How you’d do that is how I would close it. If you were to tense your muscle like so, it opens. It’s not to do with my brain exactly. It’s all to do with your muscles. It’s reading inside — the sensors are here. Every time your muscles pulse, it works out what you’re trying to do, and when it comes to actual grip, you just change that to a different grip pattern and it’ll know you’re doing something new.
GamesBeat: What does that enable you to do, practically?
Melville: For me it’s been a lot of different things. Holding a pen, for instance. I can draw with this. I’ve put videos on my Instagram doing random drawings, like Adam Jensen. Just random stuff. I like to see what you can do with it. It’s pretty dexterous. I can pick up Legos. I’ve built some Lego with it. It’s pretty helpful for stuff like that.
It’s pretty good for PC gaming, but it’s not good for console gaming. A lot of people ask about that. You can hold a mouse and everything like that, but with a controller, it doesn’t have wrist rotation. For the moment that rotation is manual. That’s where I’d like to see it go next, more wrist movement. Instead of me having to change it, it would be cool to see that.
GamesBeat: How many new versions does Open Bionics usually come out with? Is it once every few years, or do you see more frequent updates?
Melville: Because I’ve been a tester since day one, I personally have been through so many different versions that I’ve never been able to keep them. They’re constantly updating it. But when the Hero Arm came out, they said, “Right, it’s out now,” and released it. In the last two and a bit years since it came out, there have been a lot more changes. Not only the new covers, but the actual hand as well.
This has some different motor stuff in it. I’ll show you one big difference. This is the new version of the inside of it. It’s a different type of material using 3D printers. Much more high temperature. This one I have here is slightly different as well. It’s lower temperature. One thing that’s changed is this used to be Velcro, whereas now it’s magnetic. Though that might not seem like a big difference, to me it’s massive. Say I wear a sweater over it. If I have the Velcro it’s going to get caught all over me. But I’d say that every year they have a new update for the arm.
Even the thumb, for someone like me who’s tested this for several years, you can’t tell the difference too much, but there are some differences in terms of the posture of the thumb, where it clicks and how it clicks. Here they have some — it’s not fingerprints, but it’s not too tough, and not too soft either. They’re trying to get as close to the feel of an actual finger as possible. When you pick up a pen or something like that it’s nice and easy now, whereas with the original it was a bit harder. It’s constantly advancing.