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Bionic hands set to take on the world, from Christchurch base

Imagine being able to diffuse a bomb from half way around the world using sight, sound and best of all, touch.

While it may sound like something out of a movie, the reality, according to Jamie Cairns, CEO of TASKA Prosthetics, is not that far into the future. 

TASKA make prosthetic hands which can manuoevre with high precision, giving confidence, comfort and control back to amputees around the world (more on the bomb diffusion potential later). These are devices that truly improve the lives of amputees around the world.

Cairns explained how the business concept was born when founder Mathew Jury had a mountain biking accident in 2008 that broke both his arms, elbow and wrist.

“Mat realised the practical and emotional impact that comes from limited ability to interact with the everyday world and he saw an opportunity to change that,” Cairns said.

As an engineer and inventor Mat, who was based in Wellington, set about making a prototype that would turn the prosthetic industry on its head.

The result is the TASKA hand – a myoelectric prosthetic hand that is waterproof and robust, able to operate with finely tuned accuracy and control. It is unlike anything else on the market.

While the concept started in Wellington, Jamie explained when deciding where best to locate and grow the early-stage business, Christchurch was the natural choice.

“The city’s advanced manufacturing sector, product design capability and talent pipeline made the city a natural fit,”

Jamie Cairns, CEO of TASKA Prosthetics

“The city’s advanced manufacturing sector, product design capability and talent pipeline made the city a natural fit,” he said.

Located in Christchurch’s busy suburb of Riccarton, TASKA employs 37 staff who cover all aspects of the production process, from design through to distribution.

The business is actively engaged with nearby University of Canterbury (UC) for interns and student projects. Cairns described UC as a “hotbed of potential talent”.

The team also keep an eye on how prosthetic technology can be improved or used in different sectors, for example in the military or gaming sectors.

Cairns explained in mind-boggling detail how lab experiements have shown a person can sense what a prosthetic hand is feeling from across a room. The hand doesn’t need to be conected to the user’s body. Wireless technology and an interface with the human nervous system can make the impossible, possible. Like diffusing bombs.

“Our research partners in the United States are constantly looking at future opportunities including the use of avatars in the immersive gaming industry and for military applications,” he said.

But that’s all in the future. For now, TASKA have their sights fixed on prosthetics for use in the medical industry in New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

As CEO of a rapidly-growing and future-focused business, Cairns reflected on what makes Christchurch a great city to live.

“There’s no better place to be. In the weekends we are up at the Christchurch Adventure Park mountain biking with the kids, the family bach is a short drive away in Banks Peninsula, there’s easy access to the mountains in winter and the sea in summer,”

Jamie Cairns, CEO of TASKA Prosthetics

“There’s no better place to be. In the weekends we are up at the Christchurch Adventure Park mountain biking with the kids, the family bach is a short drive away in Banks Peninsula, there’s easy access to the mountains in winter and the sea in summer,” he said.

“Particularly if you have kids, it’s 100 per cent the best place to be. The schools are fantastic from primary right through to tertiary – the University of Canterbury is one of the leading universities in New Zealand. It’s a city that has everything.”

With companies like TASKA sparking technological innovation on a global scale from their base here, it seems Ōtautahi has struck a balance between lifestyle, career opportunities and global impact.