Anyone who has been following the advancements in bionic prostheses knows that there have been rapid developments within the last seven years, and even faster developments within the last four years. A lot of it has been thanks to the wide appeal to fashionable bionic prosthetic limbs that Deus Ex maker Eidos Montreal helped put into the spotlight when they teamed up with Open Bionics, featuring 3D printed limbs based on the ones that lead character Adam Jensen sported in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and its sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
But recent advancements go beyond just 3D printed limbs and partially functional replacements for amputees; recent advancements have made it where we’re one step closer to the kind of realized, bionic future present in Eidos’ Deus Ex games.
From 2014 to 2018, absolutely massive breakthroughs have taken place, where not only have affordable bionics been made available for under $2,000, but myo-prostheses — based on the Myo Gesture technology— has come a long way as well. But even more than that is the latest in bionic surgery, which has allowed amputees to have their nerve endings attached to robotic limbs that process biomimetic motor-skills.
According to the Daily Mail, 57-year-old amputee, Alex Paterson, lost his left arm during a motorcycle accident when he was 17-years-old. He’s recently undergone a surgery that allows his nerves to send signals to his robotic prosthetic.
His bionic arm reads the signals sent from the nerve endings operated by his brain, and react in the exact same manner as a normal, flesh and blood arm. The bionic arm is performing what’s called biomimesis, where it mimics the signals from the live nerves to perform the actions that would normally be performed if a real arm was in its place. When the limb is not present it’s considered phantom pain, where the amputee can “feel” the limb even when it isn’t there.
Paterson being able to use his nerves instead of a phone, app, or laptop working as an electronic mediator between what he wants to do and how the limb actually performs is part of a new generation of bionic advancements that have been two years in the making called osseointegration.
Researches from a Melbourne, Australia-based project have been working assiduously on bypassing the need to utilize computers, laptops or smartphones for the mimetic process. Instead, they have focused on utilizing the actual nerve endings to send the signals to the prosthetic limb, and the limb itself contains electronic receptors so that it can move and react just like a real life flesh and bone limb.
The next step that researchers are looking to implement is the simulation of touch and sensation, which is the next evolutionary step for robotic prosthetic limbs.
However, there is a bit of an invasive surgery process required before being able to take advantage of haptic feedback… and that involves adding a metal bone attachment so bionic limbs can be added and removed from the point of amputation with ease.
Mr. Paterson is currently looking to raise £46,900 for a procedure called skeletal fixation. This will allow him to attach his bionic arm to his left side without requiring a harness or additional straps.
This invasive surgery has been around since 2016 and is called targeted muscle reinnervation. The old method utilized several Myo arm bands, which can be purchased from places like Amazon for $199.99.
The newer methods are a lot more sophisticated and now that movement and signal transmission and reception has been improved, professors like Dr. Hugh Herr from MIT have been looking to focus on sensation and haptic feedback, with Good 4 Utah reporting…
“We want to connect nerve endings to the electro-mechanics of the prosthesis so a person can think and move the prosthesis, and we want the person to be able to feel the limb with natural sensations.”
With the advancements for bionics coming long as fast as they are, it won’t be long before people will be sporting bionic limbs as a fashion statement.