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Mechatronics

Bionic Man Shows What’s Humanly Possible With Artificial Medical Technology

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Elizabeth M
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Impressive project and progress
Elizabeth M   12/10/2013 11:24:04 AM
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This project to me is so impressive and really shows the progress in terms of artificial limbs, organs and other body parts. It's quite amazing to me how much of the human body can feasibily be replaced, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. One thing that I didn't include in the story that I also think is interesting is the moral issues that come up in terms of replacing human parts with artificial ones, as sometimes they not only equal the performance of the previous part but may also enhance it, in true "Bionic Man" style. The idea then is if it is not just moral but practical or financially sound to use medicine in this way not just to help humans but to actually make them better. And what about extending a person's life beyond what is "normal" in this day and age with technology? All interesting questions that come up with technology like the ones on display here.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Ann R. Thryft   12/11/2013 11:57:30 AM
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Great article, and looks like it was fun to put together. One thing I find interesting is the differences between robotic capabilities and those design details, such as for a hand, and the same for bionic ones.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Elizabeth M   12/12/2013 12:28:59 PM
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Thanks, Ann! Yes, it was a lot of fun to put together. Really interesting on a lot of levels. But I'm not sure what you mean about what you found interesting? Do you mean how the hand couldn't be connected because it was designed to work with human nerves and things like that?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Ann R. Thryft   12/12/2013 12:48:47 PM
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Yes, that's more or less what I meant. The design of mechatronic capabilities for a robot vs bionic ones for a human are obviously not the same.  



Elizabeth M
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Elizabeth M   12/17/2013 5:55:09 AM
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Ah, yes, I understand now, Ann. Yes, that fact was quite interesting to me as well, but of course it makes total sense. This project really shows that even though it is possible to replace and even improve human functions and parts, machines and/or robots can never be *exactly* the same as a human or exactly replicate functions and parts, which in my opinion is a very good thing.

etmax
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Re: Impressive project and progress
etmax   12/23/2013 11:28:24 PM
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Thanks for another interesting article, and one that's for years interested me. Ann's question about human vs. machine control of these artificial appendages is one that's plagued the industry since it's inception, pretty much all electronic to nerve connections suffer from chemical poisoning over time making them less effective. The problem is probably the electrical gradient between biochemical cells and metals used for contact. Even gold being completely innert still disrupts performance over time. The person who solves that will win a Nobel prize.

The means of processing other signals through the skin into limb controls while a challenge didn't hold things up for too long. Because of this virtually all actuated limbs use the sensing of nerve signalling through the skin or pressure sensing from muscles and the reliance of humans to learn to use these methods as their approach, certainly liberating but lacking the "Star Wars" level of perfection.

Greg M. Jung
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Greg M. Jung   12/24/2013 4:46:35 PM
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Thanks etmax for the insight.  Was not aware of the effect of chemical poisoning of metal over time.  Are there other organic materials being developed that could reduce this effect?

William K.
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Re: Impressive project and progress
William K.   12/24/2013 10:15:43 PM
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Greg, a surgeon frind ofmine has mentioned tantalum being used in some applications, and I believe that titanium is used in a number of artificial joints. But chunks of steelembedded in ones body are sore until they are removed, so I guess that steel would be a bad choice for implants, possibly why it is used in fragmentation weapons.

etmax
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Re: Impressive project and progress
etmax   12/26/2013 8:38:53 PM
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@Greg, There are developments happening in that area. I read something about 12 months ago and a colleague has developed a system for measuring the energy generated at the synapse but it is short lived. Apparently the nature of nerves makes it difficult. While Titanium has excellent biocompatibility and actually bonds with bone (why it's used in dental & bone inserts) what I've read with regard to nerves didn't mention it. I'll try and relocate that article.

Greg M. Jung
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Greg M. Jung   12/26/2013 9:41:00 PM
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@William K and @etmax, thanks for the update.  Seems that nerve cells are much more sensitive than bone cells (would higher bio-electricity levels through nerves be one of the critical factors that causes this characteristic?)

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Impressive project and progress
Ann R. Thryft   1/3/2014 1:07:01 PM
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Thanks, etmax, you stated my question more clearly than I did :) It was based on the previous, failed attempts at interfacing biological elements (nerves, muscles, etc) to electronic ones due to chemical poisoning from metals. In medical materials R&D, there's been a ton of work to identify materials that can be implanted, but most of those are plastics. Titanium is the exception, but as you point out, it's used to bond with bone, not nerves.

mrdon
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Re: Impressive project and progress
mrdon   12/19/2013 4:52:08 PM
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Ann

I agree. The method used to provide signals to operate the hand of the Bionic Man is very interesting. I find it amazing how electronics can be used to emulate human body functions, in this case the Bionic Man's hand, to demonstrate new artifical medical technologies to the public. Another reason why I teach and write books on the subject of electronics.

Learn Electronics with Arduino

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William K.
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Re: Impressive project and progress
William K.   12/22/2013 9:56:29 PM
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One does NOT learn electronics with Arduino, one learns about programming microcontrollers and using a bit of I/O to avoid having to understand any electronics. At least that is what I see with all of the published projects.

mrdon
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Re: Impressive project and progress
mrdon   12/22/2013 10:53:22 PM
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William K

I agree but the approach I take is to show how analog and digital circuits can aid the Arduino. I like to discuss with my students the importance of how a sensor which may provide an output signal in millivolts can be enhanced using a 741 op-amp to scale the voltage to the proper level so the Arduino can process properly it using embedded software. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to teaching the fundamentals of electronics. 

mrdon
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Re: Impressive project and progress
mrdon   12/19/2013 4:43:16 PM
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ElizabethM

Quite an interesting article on Artifical Medical Technology. Athough the Six Million Dollar Man was a SciFi TV show, the concept was based on real facts relating to engineering principles, medical technology, and science. The Bionic Man illustrates how these principles can be turned into reality using mechatronics, science, and good old creative thinking.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Impressive project and progress
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   12/21/2013 3:47:43 PM
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...surprised they named this contraption "Frank" – I was thinking, "Steve", or "Austin" maybe-?

 

mrdon
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Re: Impressive project and progress
mrdon   12/21/2013 4:02:02 PM
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JimT

Now there's an original name for a Bionic Man: "Steve Austin". No, the name  doesn't have the unique quality as "Frank". LOL 

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Impressive project and progress
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   12/23/2013 3:32:47 PM
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"Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." Oscar Goldman; Chairman of the OSI.

etmax
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Re: Impressive project and progress
etmax   12/26/2013 10:05:47 PM
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No always FRED when it's a Flaming Ridiculous Electronic Device :-)

William K.
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The project is indeed very impressive.
William K.   12/11/2013 11:01:01 AM
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This is indeed quite impressive and certainly shows what can be done. But then I think of the logical outcome if the progress continues, especially based on the assertion that it picked up colorful language from the programmer. Of course it would, as most software does reflect the programmer, no matter what the specifications are. That brings to mind a couple of other paths that the development might take. In the BBC series "Doctor Who" there are two sets of creatures that also resulted from replacing human parts with mechanical ones. There are the Cybermen, who are quite merciless warriors, and the Daleks, who are just plain evil. Of course it is quite a stretch from the six-million dollar man to either of these models, but it does point out that it is important to consider the secondary results of each development. We have already learned that the eventual outcomes of things that seem like a good idea at the time may not be what was expected.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: The project is indeed very impressive.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   12/21/2013 3:51:16 PM
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I found it unusual that they would build this body with artificially functioning limbs, and also a blood pumping heart. Obviously the two different technologies are not mutually supportive of each other.

But I suppose this device, on the whole, was intended to be a technology flagship, intended to "showcase" the various technologies into a single model.

etmax
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Re: The project is indeed very impressive.
etmax   12/23/2013 11:45:31 PM
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I think the reason why the Daleks are such an undesirable incarnations of these ideas is because a mad scientist who's sole purpose was to create an army of solders with a hive mind to obey and commit genocide against the other inhabitants of the planet Skaro after a prolonged war that included nuclear and in the case of the Cybermen created them.

The Cybermen havea a few less clear cut origins but none reflect the altruistic drive behind cyber augmentation in humans as we know it.


While that it no guarantee cyberment or Daleks won't be eventually created, luckily the laws of physics will prevent such creatures from being much more than a nuisance

William K.
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Re: The project is indeed very impressive.
William K.   12/24/2013 10:19:01 PM
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etmax, what we can learn about some of these things gone so wrong is that if they ever do appear, that we should use all our resources to destroy them before they adapt. Some inventions are just plain bad choices from one end to the other.

etmax
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Re: The project is indeed very impressive.
etmax   12/26/2013 8:47:58 PM
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WilliamK, I read an article about 6 years ago where some researchers were studying E.Coli and why it was so fragile outside the body and decideded it was due to dehydration so they transplanted some genes from an extremophile and had E.Coli that could survive anywhere. To me that was total lunacy, if it ever got out of the lab it would be a disaster.

I know they say that can't happen but we have a high security biolab nearby that does research into various pathogens to create vaccines and treatments and they were working on some chicken flu. To cut a long story short there was an accident and worker worker got infected with a non-lethal (to humans) version and was sent home and that weekend she visited family who have a large chicken farm. Nothing happened but it was so close to going awry. People are simply fallable and as a result shouldn't be allowed to do certain things.

William K.
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Re: The project is indeed very impressive.
William K.   12/26/2013 9:49:14 PM
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etmax, yes, the degree of non-thinking that we see is probably going toleadto a really big disaster in the future. With the cop-out phrase of "I didn't know", which is one excuse that I don't accept any more. My reply is that when does not know, one must find out, or do something else.

AnandY
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Re: Impressive project and progress
AnandY   12/30/2013 7:29:33 AM
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This is impressive, not because the team was able to collect all the prosthetic and artificial limbs that are already functionally being used in different parts of the world but because the team was actually able to make these parts actually work together as they would in a human body. More importantly, it provides a clear blue print of what needs to be done now in order to come up with a complete and functional bionic man.

AnandY
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Re: impressive but questions
AnandY   12/30/2013 7:53:34 AM
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@Elizabeth, this is a great piece but one that leaves me with so many questions (a few of which am hoping someone here will answer). For starters, I know the artificial heart can't pump blood into the robot so what is it really doing there? Or is the robot just meant to be a stand on which to hang all the prosthetics and artificial body parts has been able to create without necessarily having these parts communicate or work together. And, any ideas about the artificial intelligence, however minor, included in the whole piece?

notarboca
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Re: impressive but questions
notarboca   12/31/2013 9:29:01 PM
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AnandY--it would be interesting to know which systems are controlled together, or if, as you suggest, the artificial parts are just hung on a robot skeleton.

Elizabeth M
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Re: impressive but questions
Elizabeth M   1/2/2014 10:08:47 AM
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Hi, AnandY. I can answer the artificial heart question at least. It was connected to an artificial circulatory system that did indeed pump blood throughout the robot to show how it can be done. So while it didn't matter to the robot's "life" per se, it did show how it could be done artificially.

Elizabeth M
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Re: impressive but questions
Elizabeth M   1/2/2014 10:10:42 AM
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Also, AnandY, thank you for the compliment on the story! (I forgot to say that in my previous comment.) It was a great deal of fun to write and research. I found it fascinating and am glad you did, too.

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