Cyberpunk Review » Prosthetics in the Mainstream: Bionic Women & Dolphins

September 20, 2006

Prosthetics in the Mainstream: Bionic Women & Dolphins



The advances for prosthetics keeps on coming. Move over Jamie Summers - the first Bionic Woman is Claudia Mitchell. As the Washington Post states:


Mitchell, who lives in Ellicott City, is the fourth person — and first woman — to receive a “bionic” arm, which allows her to control parts of the device by her thoughts alone. The device, designed by physicians and engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, works by detecting the movements of a chest muscle that has been rewired to the stumps of nerves that once went to her now-missing limb.

Mitchell and the first person to get a bionic arm — a power-line technician who lost both arms to a severe electric shock — will demonstrate their prostheses today at a news event in Washington. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is part of a multi-lab effort, funded with nearly $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create more useful and natural artificial limbs for amputees.




As I mentioned previously, if there is anything good to come out of the Iraqi conflict, its the massive dollars going into prosthetics research. The Washington Post reports that “as of July, 411 members of the military serving in Iraq, and 37 in Afghanistan, have suffered wounds requiring amputation of at least one limb.” Soldiers who have put their lives on the line only to lose a part of themselves are beginning to have options to lead normal lives again.


Jesse Sullivan has two prosthetic arms, but he can climb a ladder at his house and roll on a fresh coat of paint. He’s also good with a weed-whacker, bending his elbow and rotating his forearm to guide the machine. He’s even mastered a more sensitive maneuver _ hugging his grandchildren.

The motions are coordinated and smooth because his left arm is a bionic device controlled by his brain. He thinks, “Close hand,” and electrical signals sent through surgically re-routed nerves make it happen.

Jesse Sullivan demonstrates one of his prosthetic arms by using a paint roller on the side of his house, July 20, 2006, in Dayton, Tenn. His left arm is is a bionic device wired directly into his brain. Sullivan lost his arms in May 2001, working as a utility lineman. (AP Photo/Mark Gilliland)
Jesse Sullivan demonstrates one of his prosthetic arms by using a paint roller on the side of his house, July 20, 2006, in Dayton, Tenn. His left arm is is a bionic device wired directly into his brain. Sullivan lost his arms in May 2001, working as a utility lineman.

Doctors describe Sullivan as the first amputee with a thought-controlled artificial arm.


But it doesn’t stop at soldiers - in the short term, innovations with connecting prosthetics directly to the nervous system will benefit anyone who has lost a limb. People have started to have “JJ Arms” style prosthetics collections tailored toward the various tasks they engage in (different legs for running, walking, etc.). Unfortunately for most non-vets, insurance companies are not helping, but perhaps this too will be addressed. From a cyberpunked living standpoint, I contend that over time, this will march humanity closer to a post-human future - one in which people can begin experimenting with additional prosthetics - ones which don’t mimic our existing body type.




But it doesn’t stop there folks! There’s animals too. From three-legged cows in search of another hoof to now, even dolphins are getting into the act! The Sun Sentinel reports a story about a dolphin who’s tail got cut off is in line for a new tail!


The solution for Winter may be a prosthetic tail. If the logistics can be worked out, Winter’s prosthesis would be the first for a dolphin who lost its tail and the key joint that allows it to move in powerful up-and-down strokes. Another dolphin in Japan has a prosthesis, the first in the world, to replace a missing part of its tail.


When the satirical news sites start making up stories about prosthetics, you know its hit the mainstream. People are even nuking prosthetic penises to pass drug tests! I still remember as a wee little kid back in the early 70s being scared shitless when I saw a guy doing laundry with a fake arm in the shape of a hook. How we have advanced. Now, those with prosthetics barely merit a flick of the eye. People with prosthetics no longer hide them - in fact they are starting to celebrate them by displaying and personalizing them. In short, our view of a “normal person” is shifting to something far more encompassing. This is a great thing - times are a changin!


September 20, 2006

microchip said:

You forgot to add this dude that has a microchip inplanted into his body. He’s the real cyborg here as he can send signals to this chip to do stuff and vica versa

SFAM said:

Hi Microchip, nope, I’m not forgetting that. You’re referring to Kevin Warwick, professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading. That’s a different thought - one which I’ve already posted here and here. The post above deals more with the current state of prosthetics and how its changing our societal outlook on what it means to be human.

microchip said:

oh yes, i checked out the above link

microchip said:

SFAM, I just registered to the forum but I didn’t get any activation mail… user name is microchip… HELP !!!!

SFAM said:

You have been activated now Microchip.

[…] Os avanços nessa área são fantásticos e parece que estamos chegando a resultados funcionais e esteticamente aceitáveis. Foi isso que vi no site Para ser mais exato, nesse post. A garota da foto, Claudia Mitchell, 26, perdeu seu braço em um acidente de moto e recebeu um implante para substituir o membro perdido. […]

September 22, 2006

SteMcNay said:

Imagine being bitch-slapped by one of those prosthethic arms. That’s gotta hurt! ;)

September 23, 2006

Silvio José said:

olá, vi as fotos acima fiquei muito emprecionado, eu tenho amputação da perna direita acima do joelho, já faz 17 anos, não consegui me adaptar com prótese, porque tadas as vezes que eu usava machucava muito, e era prótese meio inferior, eu creio que a tecnologia avançou muito nesse tipo de deficiência, muito bom, só que as pessoas não tem recurso para a companhar o crescimento, é o meu caso tenho muita vontade de ter uma prótese boa, que me possa dar mais conforto, só que infelismente não tenho recurso para isso. Mais fico feliz que outras pessoas possam ser beneficiada pelos avanços tecnologico.

October 24, 2006

Cleildo Coelho Dos Santos said:

É muito interessante até mesmo duvidoso acreditar que um braço mecânico possa movimentar-se apenas por estimulos do corpo humano.

November 11, 2006

RobertMB said:

There is realy a man that has a Chip in his Brain which receives thoughts, and *directly* controls the Artificial Limb.
Don’t know his Name, though.

At work are everywhere Posters -
“save your eyes, you only have this two!”
“skincheck - you can’t change!”
I allways smile when I see one of those, and when someone asks me why, I just point at those Posters and say: “’till near Future!”

SFAM said:

Hi Silvio, I don’t speak Portugeuse, but by sticking your text into a translator, I am guessing you have lost a leg. Hopefully this technology will become cheaply available to everyone in a few years.

SFAM said:

Hi Robert, there are a number of experiments under way like this. These will only increase. And yeah, the near future is getting nearer all the time!

January 9, 2007

Israel de F. Souza said:

Really? I`ts one dream that is make.
For all people that need help to live.
Congratulations for first people that will have a new life and one new chance.
Congratulations for cience.

February 17, 2007

Cyberpunk Review » The Bionic Man Wears Glasses said (pingback):

[…] through a mobile robot that you “control” with your mind (we already have direct prosthetics control connected to our nervous systems). In effect this becomes another limb, but is one detached from your body (I’m going to call […]

May 22, 2007

bionical said:

ur freakin freaks

bionical said:

wow U.R. F.R.E.A.K.S.

August 25, 2007

essence234 said:

i liked it, i hope robots and cybers will be created quickly. in the near future we will have cyber perfect angel girl :P

October 21, 2008

Anonymous said:

that is cool

December 24, 2009

poula willem khames said:

i want to know tube of sensor that can be read the signal in nerve end please

January 15, 2010

star said:

I think its great that this technology exist to help people with missing limbs. even tho it looks bulky. But seriously whos going cut off there own perfectly good limbs for one of these. Just to be a Cyborg.

January 20, 2010

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February 21, 2010

Anonymous said:

u r a bumb,to say thoes things.

December 20, 2011

n said:


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