Naked Prosthetics creates custom-fitted hand and finger prostheses that allow an impressive range of fine motor skills to be done by the wearer, like holding and striking a match or unscrewing a tiny cap.
Matt Finney lost parts of two fingers and his thumb from gangrene stemming from a blood clot. It's cool to hear him talk about how this changed his life. Here's some of the many other demonstrations on their channel:
Drummer Jason Barnes, who only has one arm, has been collaborating with engineer Gil Weinberg of Georgia Tech's Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines to develop a cyborg arm that enables Barnes not only to play his kit again, but to "play at speeds not humanly possible... and play strange polyrhythms that no human can play." Weinberg and Barnes have now launched a Kickstarter to build another prosthetic cyborg arm that Barnes can take on the road. From IEEE Spectrum:
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The Cyborg Drummer Project Kickstarter is looking to raise $90,000; of that, $70,000 will go straight to production of the new arm. A big chunk of the cost comes from trying to replace the “couple of computers and a technical team” that are currently required to operate the arm with components that are portable, self-contained, and user operated. The remaining $20,000 will go towards organizing concerts and making recordings so that folks who contribute will be able to hear and enjoy some of the result, potentially in person.
One of the unique things about the prosthetic that Weinberg and Barnes want to build is that it will be partially autonomous. There are two drumsticks: Barnes controls one; the other operates autonomously through its own actuator. The arm listens to the music being played (by Jason and the musicians around him) and improvises its own accompanying beat pattern. It's able to do this on the fly, and if it chooses to, is capable of moving at speeds far faster than a human drummer can.
Dianceht is a company in Mexico that makes such realistic prosthetic body parts, it's almost impossible to tell they're not the real thing. Started in 2005, Dianceht makes custom-made silicon-based fingers, ears, toes, hands and other body parts, which take several days to hand paint. Fingers include fingerprints, veins and freckles. As far as prices go, a finger or toe costs around $750, while an ear or nose will set you back approximately $1,432. Read the rest
Maker collective Hackerloop modified a Nerf gun into a bionic prosthetic for their friend Nicolas Huchet. He fires the gun via EMG (electromyography) sensors that detect when he tenses his forearm muscles.
"It all started with jokes about the fact that it was too easy for us to win over him in a nerf battle, as he’s missing his right hand," writes "tinkerer in chief" Valentin Squirelo.
DIY hardware is not just about temperature sensors and automated door locks anymore. Every hardware component used to make this gun can be found online.
“Electromyography is a great way to make the body communicate with hardware. We used it to detect electrical impulses and translated them into instructions for our gun. You could think of a thousand other uses.
You could think it’s not the first problem to solve for people with disabilities, but in fact being able to have fun with your friends with these wonderful toys is also a real game changer”.
London product designer Dani Clode has created a prosthetic thumb, not to replace a missing digit, but simply to offer people an extra thumb, and therefore add to the human experience. She calls it the Third Thumb Project.
Clode uses bluetooth controllers in her shoes, which are connected to pressure sensors underneath her toes, to manipulate the thumb. "It extends the wearer's ability. It extends the wearer's self. It's an addition to the body," she says in the video.
The extra thumb allows you to easily do things like crack eggs, swipe an iPhone, and squeeze a lemon with only one hand instead of two. Now Clode is working on the Alternative Limb Project at the University College London with neuroscientists in a brain plasticity lab to design a prosthetic arm. Read the rest
"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes."
On Friday, surgeons installed a "click-on robotic arm" on a patient in the Netherlands. The wearer controls the robot arm by thought alone. Myoelectric sensors in a bracelet worn on the upper arm measure muscle signals that are transmitted to the prosthetic arm via Bluetooth. From ScienceDaily:
Through an opening in the skin, the patient "clicks" the prosthesis onto a metal rod in the bone. Because the prosthesis connects directly to the skeleton, a prosthesis socket is no longer necessary. This ensures that it does not slip off, avoids skin problems, and makes it very easy to put on and take off...
The nerves that controlled the muscles in the hand and the underarm before the amputation are meticulously attached to parts of the muscles in the upper arm stump. By connecting the nerves to the muscle, the muscle acts like an amplifier of the nerve signal...
The surgeries are followed by a rehabilitation period, so that the patient can learn to contract the muscles in their upper arm by using their thoughts. If the patient imagines opening and closing their hand, the muscles in the upper arm contract.
"Click-on arm prosthesis controlled by patient's thoughts" (ScienceDaily) Read the rest
Lyon, France-based tattoo artist JC Sheitan Tenet has no right arm. In place of his right hand, he wears custom tattoo machine prostheses he developed with biomechanical sculptor Jean-Louis Gonzal. According to Great Big Story, "the device can pivot 360 degrees and allows Tenet to create abstract designs unlike anyone else."
When I was young in the 1970s, I was blown away by photos of the 1950s battery-powered "bionic" arm invented by IBM engineer SW Alderson. The technology is now more than 60 years old and it still looks futuristic to me. Read the rest
Medical historian Thomas Schlich wrote a fascinating essay for CNN about the history of prosthetic body parts and the "Bionic Men of World War I." From his article:
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In all nations involved in the war an emerging generation of so-called "war cripples," as they were referred to in Germany, loomed ominously over the pension and welfare system, and many government bureaucrats, military leaders and civilians worried about their long-term fate.
One solution was returning mutilated soldiers to the workforce. Various prostheses were designed to make that possible, pushing prosthesis manufacturing in many countries from a cottage industry towards modern mass production.
In the United States the Artificial Limb Laboratory was established in 1917 at the Walter Reed General Hospital, in conjunction with the Army Medical School, with the goal to give every amputee soldier a "modern limb," enabling them to pass as able-bodied citizens in the workplace. While the United States remained the largest producer of artificial limbs worldwide, Germany's prosthetic developments incorporated a particular quest for efficiency.
German orthopedists, engineers and scientists invented more than 300 new kinds of arms and legs and other prosthetic devices to help. Artificial legs made of wood or metal, sometimes relatively rudimentary, and often recreating the knee-joint in some way, enabled leg-amputees to stand and move around unaided.