Life hasn’t always been easy for Mady Gardner. Born without her left arm below the elbow, everyday tasks like putting her hair in a ponytail were almost impossible.

Now the eight-year-old from Austin, Texas, has become the youngest person in the US to receive a bionic arm, and she loves it – especially the bright-pink colour.

Mady Gardner with her new bionic arm
Image: Open Bionics

Mady's new arm opens up the possibility of many new physical movements, including waving and performing tasks like gripping a ball. She says she’s looking forward to activities like riding her bike and playing golf with her dad, too. And her “favourite thing” is that she can now make a heart with her hands.

Mady’s mother says the new arm has already made a tremendous difference to her life – and she’s optimistic about the future for her “super awesome” daughter.

Custom-made

The Hero Arm is made by UK company Open Bionics. Founded by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, the firm has won awards including the $1 million UAE AI & Robotics International Award for Good.

Open Bionics has made bionic arms for several children in the UK and France as well as for adults. Its Hero Arm is a multi-grip bionic limb that can lift up to eight kilograms, and each one is custom-made using 3D scanning and printing.

The arm is fitted with sensors that detect muscle movements, meaning the wearer can control the bionic hand in much the same way he or she would a biological hand.

The future of medicine?

Robotics are playing a growing role in medicine, from minimally invasive robotic surgery to an experimental swallowable “origami” robot that carries out surgery inside the stomach. Exoskeleton robots can help paralysed patients to recover mobility, and a robot has even been developed to take blood samples.