Prosthetic limbs and other artificial body parts have come a long way in the last 10 to 20 years, and many on the market and under development today can restore nearly the same functions as the human body parts they’re replacing -- or even improve upon them.
Developers from a London-based robotics company Shadow Robot -- at the behest of London-based television production company Darlow Smithson Productions -- recently undertook a project to see how much of a replica of a human could be built using prosthetic body parts.
The result -- called the
Bionic Man -- rebuilt about two-thirds of a walking, talking human with an array of prosthetic parts, including a blood-pumping, beating artificial heart.
Click on the image below to open a slideshow of some of the prosthetics used to create the Bionic Man, as well as other cutting-edge designs in artificial body parts.
Rex Bionics has developed a robotic leg system that provides people bound to a wheelchair the ability to stand up and walk unaided by crutches or braces. The system includes 29 onboard computer processors that control movement and balance through joystick control, allowing the Rex user to direct the device to sit, stand, walk, and turn easily. The robotic legs can even walk up steps and up or down slopes. (Source: Rex Bionics)
It's amazing to see what the microprocessor can do in terms of providing balance. Dean Kamen's Segway used microprocessors to balance a two-wheeled vehicle, and I always thought that was amazing. But the robotoic leg shown here is presumably more complicated than a Segway, and has to supply balance in a wider variety of potential scenarios.
It is an interesting collection and it certainly can benefit a lot of people. BUT not all engineers can or should focus on this area. There is a great deal of insight and understanding needed to arrive at a design that is better thanb "peg ;eg" of a hundred yars ago. The kinematics of human motion are quite a challenge, and even just the selection of materials compatible with human phisiology is a big effort.
Besdies all of that there are two other considerations, the first is that I am not employed to develop wonderful prosthetics, and so it would not be honest to my employers to work on projects not in their business. They have a lot of other engineering work for me to do. And the second consideration is that if all engineers started creating prosthetic designs, the pay level would drop so much that they would mostly move to other fields if they could.
Great point NadineJ, I also believe that the prices of those should be affordable to the public in order to get the maximum out of the innovation otherwise it will only be a just a innovation which has no value.
One of the biggest walls in embedded software development is the integration of low-level drivers with higher-level middleware and application code, but silicon vendors are stepping up to bring it down.
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