3 Years On: Q&A with Hero Arm User Travis Amburgey

26th October 2023

3 years ago, Travis became one of the first Hero Arm users in the United States. We wanted to catch up with Travis to find out what life has been like wearing the Hero Arm, and what features he would like to see in the future!

Q: Hi Travis, thanks for being here! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it was like growing up with a limb difference? 

A: I kind of grew up learning that if I couldn’t get into the cookie jar and I couldn’t figure out my way into the cookie jar, I just didn’t get any cookies, which helped me. I’m glad my parents were kind of hard on me like that. I was very independent, I didn’t really need prosthetics. 

Q: Why did you decide you wanted a Hero Arm?

A: I grew up with prosthetics, but I tried really hard to like not use them growing up. I started working a job when I was 21, that was in a factory. Working in that job, I started getting really bad carpal tunnel, and I was getting to the point where I was putting too much stress on my hand. So I was at the point where I realized I needed a prosthetic. I need something to take the weight off my hand.

So I started looking, and I came across the Hero Arm, but at the time it was only available in England. I was prepared to go and get this hand in England, which is extreme, I know, but I was prepared to do it. The week that I was looking to go, there was an announcement that Open Bionics was coming to America! And I was like, that’s even better. 

Q: How would you say your Hero Arm has helped you?

 A: The Hero Arm has helped me a lot with small stuff, like packing things and helping with my kid, because I just recently had a baby. So it’s been very helpful. I wouldn’t say that I use it every day, but I do use it quite a bit. 

Q: What do your kids think of your Hero Arm?

A: My oldest is cool with it now, he likes it. He’s actually used my arm as a phone holster to watch YouTube videos before!

As far as what is possible technology wise, I think that it operates very well. I think it’s top-notch in my opinion, but aesthetic is a 10 out of 10, and operation I’d say 9/10. With everything together, I’d give it a 9/10.

Q: If you could add any feature to the Hero Arm, what would it be?

A: So this is gonna sound really out there, but I’ve always wanted a hand that had a flash drive hidden in the finger. It sounds really useless, but there’s so many situations where I would love to just flip the finger off and plug it in and have some kind of storage.

Q: Which Hero Arm features are most important to you?

A: Honestly, even over functionality, the aesthetic means more to me than anything. As far as what is possible technology wise, I think that it operates very well. I think it’s top-notch in my opinion, but aesthetic is a 10 out of 10, and operation I’d say 9/10. With everything together, I’d give it a 9/10.

Q: Why is the Hero Arm’s aesthetic so important to you?

A: I’m a streamer and content creator so it’s kind of weird to be saying this, but in public, I don’t like being the spotlight. So little kids, when they see you’re missing a hand, you know, they have so many questions. They’re so curious, and it’s not their fault, I get that. But they’re always coming up and asking ‘how’d you lose your hand’? And you tell them, and then it just doesn’t stop. It just keeps going. But when I’m wearing the Hero Arm, it’s just kinda like, “oh you’ve got an Iron Man hand”? Plus it just looks really, really cool. I love the idea of having a robotic hand. 

Q: Tell us about gaming with a limb difference!

A: There’s unfortunately not a lot of help out there for us to game. And especially if you’re missing your right hand. I use foot switches and stuff to game a lot. If I use a mouse and keyboard, I’ve got this whole rig set up with foot switches so I can game.

Q: What advice would you give to kids with limb differences?

A: You’re probably gonna hear a lot of adults and even kids tell you you can’t do something because you don’t have two hands, or you don’t have two legs, whatever. I would just say to ignore them and find a way to do it. Because any amputee will tell you that you’ll have people that doubt you can do the simplest task, or if you do do a simple task, it’s amazing to them. They’re like, “oh my God, I’m so proud of you ’cause blah blah blah”. And it’s cool that they’re proud, but it’s just me living my daily life.

So I would just say to just keep experimenting and keep figuring out how to do it. And honestly, I would pick some type of hobby that involves you using your hand a lot. Whether it’s video games or solving a Rubik’s Cube, whatever, something to give you very good hand-eye coordination.

Q: On behalf of Open Bionics, we all thank you Travis for joining us and for offering your input and your comments!

A: Thank you guys for the opportunity to speak and thank you for having me. I really appreciate you guys listening to me!

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The Hero Arm uses myoelectric sensors which detect underlying muscular contractions generated from specific muscle groups in the arm. These are then amplified and converted into intuitive and proportional bionic hand movements. Each Hero Arm is custom-built for optimal comfort, and fits like a glove.

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