In "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," hero Luke Skywalker famously has his hand cut off in a duel with Darth Vader. To get around that handicap for the next film, he gets a prosthetic hand that, coincidentally, looks and works exactly like the hand that was cut off.
As a money-saving measure for the special effects budget, it was a brilliant move. However, it also created a standard for real-world prosthetics that so far we haven't come close to matching.
To this point, prosthetics that look like a real hand don't work like one. And a prosthetic hand that works like the real thing doesn't look like one.
That might be changing with the "BeBionic" hand from the Steeper Group in England. It's made anatomically correct for its intended recipient, in this case 26-year-old Nicky Ashwell.
To make it work like a real hand, "the company used technology also found in Formula 1 cars to build an accurate skeletal structure with miniaturised components, so that it isn’t too bulky. It mimics the functions of a real hand with 14 different precision grips."
Nicky can control the hand using muscle movements of her arm. There's a separate motor for each hand, and overall it has 337 mechanical parts. The finger hinges are actually rare earth magnets and the fingertips have air bubbles to mimic the give of human fingertips.
Nicky has been trying it out and says it's very natural. Here it is in action:
OK, so it isn't quite Luke Skywalker's hand just yet. But it's definitely getting us closer.