Though this has been the prosthetic hand top in my thoughts for the past few weeks, it might be supplanted.
Sure, the Segway is the butt of many jokes, but Dean Kamen still impresses the hell out of me. My RL stepson had a rare period of initiative and teamwork when he participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition that was founded by Kamen. Kamen has been devoted to inventions to improve the quality of life for people who face physical challenges for decades. Now, the Luke arm (yes, named after another amputee familiar to many of us) developed by his company, Deka Research & Development, just received FDA approval. What makes this arm unique? It’s a hell of a lot more useful than the gear the Kingslayer is rocking. It’s bionic, mind-controlled, and capable of dexterity and pressure delicacy that other models lack.
The Luke arm has been in development for a long time — Kamen spoke about the arm in a 2007 TED talk — and with a target userbase of disabled veterans, DARPA provided $40 million in funding toward the project.
I find it inspiring to see this sort of manual dexterity in a prosthetic, and not only because I get to spend a lot of this month in physical therapy for a shoulder injury. We’ve come a long way since replacement simply for aesthetics or the crudest of functionality. I’m hopeful that pushing the standard higher for top-notch, cutting edge prosthetics will have a bar-raising effect so that even those who aren’t wealthy or in special populations (veterans, athletes) will see the quality of their options improve.