By Mark Honigsbaum
Bertolt Meyer’s amazing bionic hand controlled by an iPhone app is a glimpse of the advances being made in prosthetics. But in years to come, will everyone want one?
Bertolt Meyer is used to being viewed as not fully human. Born with a stump where his left hand should have been, he spent his childhood wearing a hook connected to an elaborate pulley and harness. “To open the hook and grasp things I had to flex my shoulders like this,” he says, striking a he-man pose. “The harness was very uncomfortable. To stop it chafing my skin, I had to wear a shirt underneath it at all times. I was always sweating.”
Even when, at the age of 19, Meyer exchanged his body-powered hook for a myoelectric prosthesis with a more realistic plastic hand, he kept his disfigured left arm hidden from view. “It wasn’t simply a question of aesthetics,” he explains, proffering the plastic hand, now grubby and discoloured with use. “You have to understand, this is a stigma. People think it’s weird and that is how you come to perceive it. You walk around with a sense of shame.”