Prosthetic Limbs

By | February 8, 2008

Prosthetic limbs are another harbinger of the future. They’re becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it looks like IEEE Spectrum is going to run a special issue on them in February.

There’s an interesting article up now about the ‘Luke’ arm, named for Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic in Empire Strikes Back. Check it out in this video.

What’s really cool is the range of control mechanisms available – gone are cumbersome mechanical arrangements, replaced by controls based on nerve signals, twitching related muscles, or even underused muscle groups such as toes. The video below shows an arm based entirely on neural feedback – the patient doesn’t need to learn special commands – his prosthetic responds to messages from his brain similarly to a real one.

Another article discusses cosmeses – coverings for the arm mechanics designed to make them look real. Unfortunately, there’s no pictures, though from the description of “silver-black carbon fiber, shimmering with a pattern of subtle scales” sounds pretty damned awesome.So far, no one has replaced their body parts with prosthetics voluntarily, but given their progress and potential, I give it at most ten years.