NZ designers up for award say world-first child version is next.

The Kiwi designers behind a world-leading bionic hand have set their next challenge - to create a much smaller version for children.

David Lovegrove and the design team at 4ormfunction in Christchurch are finalists at the upcoming Best Design Awards for their innovative Taska bionic hand.

But Lovegrove said no designer "rested on their laurels" and the team was hard at work improving the current model and working on sizes for women and children.

The current Taska hand is strong enough to crush a tennis ball but delicate enough to grasp an egg without breaking the shell.

Designers spent thousands of hours improving the hand, which has a tiny motor, gearbox and clutch for each finger and two for its thumb. It's worth $35,000.

"The smaller-sized hands are the most challenging because there is a lot that goes into them," Lovegrove said. "That scale brings a significant technical challenge."

If successful the smaller hand would be a world first - and life-changing for child amputees around the globe.


New Zealanders are always the first to benefit with prototypes used and improvements locally.

"We spend a lot of time observing the hand at work and getting feedback from users as to what they can and can't do," Lovegrove said.

Dunedin sculptor Gavin Wilson has one of the most advanced versions of the Taska hands.

Wilson lost his hand six years ago after he put his arm in a shredding machine, which he believed was turned off.

Since the accident Wilson has had a number of prosthetics but said the robotic sensors in the Taska hand allowed him to do "nearly everything".

"It has been life-changing," Wilson said.

"I can be sculpting and get it dusty and dirty and it just washes off. It's completely waterproof."

Wilson explains the sensors are activated by the muscles in his arm, so if he tenses them, it will do one thing; if he flexes the muscles the hand will change position.


The Taska hand entered in the Best Awards is a completely waterproof hand that allows the user to wash the car and then sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer and eat a steak with a knife and fork.

The hand is Bluetooth-enabled, can shake hands at various pressures and has a rechargeable battery that lasts 10 hours.

And just like muscles in a hand of flesh and bone the bionic hand can move precisely and make all kinds of different gestures.

"We can give you the middle finger if you want it," Lovegrove said.

He said being named a finalist was peer recognition of the thousands of hours and energy put into the design.

The company has won gold at previous awards with the design of time-saving Les Mills fitness equipment "Smart Bar" and "Smart Step".

The Best Design Awards are the largest in Australasia and will announce their winners in front of a crowd of 1000 designers at the Viaduct Events Centre on September 22.