The history of Touch Bionics began with a program of work conducted at the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital in Edinburgh from 1963, starting with comprehensive research into developing prosthetic solutions for children affected by Thalidomide.
In 1986 David Gow joined the Bioengineering Centre at the hospital, with responsibility for research and development. Two years later, work began in earnest on electronic arms, including shoulders, wrists and hands.
In 1993, Gow developed a partial hand system received international publicity and in 1998, achieved international profile through the fitting of the world's first electrically powered shoulder.
2003 - Gow led a spin-out company out from the National Health System via Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL), and became the first spin-out to receive significant funding. An initial SMART award from Scottish Enterprise got the company started, and it has now received investment funding from existing and new investors, including Archangel Informal Investments, TriCAP, Clydesdale Bank and the Scottish Co-investment Fund.
The company was initially called Touch EMAS, EMAS standing for Edinburgh Modular Arm System. In 2005 it was re-branded Touch Bionics to communicate the dynamism of the company's products and the future focus of its prosthesis technology. In medicine, bionics means the replacement or enhancement of organs or other body parts by mechanical means.
2007 - Touch Bionics launched the i-limb hand, the first powered prosthetic hand to incorporate articulating fingers. It has five independently powered digits that open and close around objects in a more natural and anatomically correct way than any previous hand prosthesis. The i-limb hand helped amputees across the world to improve their everyday lives with the increased function offered by its articulating digits.
2008 - Touch Bionics acquired the US company, livingskin, which developed the lifelike prosthetic coverings for the i-limb hand. In addition to securing its covering supply, the acquisition also provided Touch Bionics with a new product line: aesthetic restoration solutions. These high-definition passive silicone prostheses are created to resemble human skin by mimicking the three dermal layers of natural human skin. To ensure proper colour matching and fit, every prosthesis is custom crafted for each individual. Passive livingskin prostheses are both incredibly realistic and functional, allowing the user to manually position the device to assist in the tasks of everyday living, and can be created and fitted for any level of finger, hand or arm amputation.
2009 - With engineer Hugh Gill now leading research and development at the company, Touch Bionics launched i-limb digits, an extension of the same articulating digit technology that goes into the i-limb hand to provide a new finger solution for partial hand patients. With i-limb digits, people with missing between one and five fingers have an externally powered prosthetic option that has never been available for this patient population.
2010 - The launch of the new i-limb pulse represented a significant advance for the i-limb product line, with a host of enhancements, including pulsing grip strength, a slimmer, more anatomically correct design, and a robust aluminium structure for improved durability. In addition, the i-limb pulse came with biosim, a software tool that allows prosthetists and wearers alike to modify the hand via a Bluetooth connection.
2011 - Touch Bionics launched the i-limb ultra, with a host of enhancements, including pulsing grip strength, a slimmer, more anatomically correct design, and a robust aluminium structure for improved durability. In addition, the i-limb ultra unveiled the virtu-limb simulation and training tool.
2013 - The i-limb revolution was launched, featuring a powered rotating thumb, 24 grip options and extra sensitive electrodes. The i-limb revolution became the first upper limb prosthesis to allow wearers to configure it via a mobile devices using the my i-limb mobile application.
2014 - In the first half of 2014, Touch Bionics launched several product improvements including i-limb skin active TS touchscreen compatible covers for i-limb devices, grip chips, a bluetooth control method for the i-limb revolution, and my grips, patient customizable grips for the i-limb revolution.
2015 - The i-limb quantum was introduced in the early summer. As Touch Bionics’ latest development, the i-limb quantum incorporates gesture control powered by the company’s patented i-mo™ technology making it the first upper limb prosthesis that can change grips with a simple gesture. This advancement along with significant improvements to the my i-limb app make the i-limb quantum easy and intuitive for patients to use so that they can quickly regain independence and their ability to complete activities of daily living. The hand also offers 30% faster digit speed, 30% more power, and 50% more battery life than the prior generation product.
In October 2015 i-mo™ technology and many other features of the i-limb quantum were included in the next generation partial hand from Touch Bionics, i-digits quantum. By the end of 2015 over 5,000 patients had been fitted with Touch Bionics i-limb and i-digits products.
On 11 April 2016 Touch Bionics was acquired by Össur, a recognised "Technology Pioneer" and global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics that help people live a life without limitations. Össur’s business is focused on improving people's mobility through the delivery of innovative technologies within the fields of braces, supports and prosthetic limbs.
Now proudly part of Össur, Touch Bionics continues to innovate and lead the world in the development of upper limb prosthetic technologies. The company is committed to delivering positive patient outcomes and improving the lives of people with upper limb deficiencies across the world.