Prosthetics are becoming more than just limb replacements. Inspired by what could be, these new prosthetics are improving the quality of life for those patients and helping them feel better, show off and sometimes do things they never could do before. Despite improvements in prosthetics design, the engineering students at Johns Hopkins University found most are built for men’s feet, and the options for women are few even though almost half of all amputation procedures in 2013 were performed on women, according to the Virginia-Based Amputation Coalition. The students made a prosthetic that allows women amputees to wear high heels, once a staple in their wardrobes but lost after losing a leg.
“Basically, our prosthetics department is constantly looking to improve the function of all prosthetics in order to improve the quality of life for those service members, veterans and their families with amputations,” said Dave Laufer, director of orthotic and prosthetic services at Walter Reed.
At the Human X Design Conference in New York City Aug. 3, panelists and guests talked about and showcased what prosthetics could become and some of the amazing advancements they have made. One company, Open Bionics, has received awards for creating affordable bionic hands for amputees. Open Bionics had the technical knowledge of how prosthetics need to work, and Eidos-Montreal provided the artistic flair that so many amputees now want for their artificial limbs. The result was something wonderful for prosthetic patients.
“Whereas now, there has been a huge change in attitudes. We all want to have different colored hair, tattoos. We want some expression. We really value that in our culture.” Internally, the new arms, called Titan arms, are designed to work better and more efficiently than other, older prosthetic arms.
She said she thought it would be weird to have two arms and hands, having made the choice at a young age to forgo any prosthetic device.
“To begin with, it is an emotional thing. But I could hold something and eat something with the other hand, and I’ve never been able to do that before.” The Titan arm doesn’t imbue Disney with any special powers, other than the ability to look cooler and feel better about her self-image.
When Oscar Pistorius became the first double-leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, it not only opened the door for other amputees to see what they could do with new devices but inspired normal humans to augment themselves.
“In my case, this is a new body part. It is an antenna. And also, it is the creation of a new sense, which goes beyond the visual spectrum.” Haribisson considers himself to be transhuman, someone who resembles a human in most respects but who has power and abilities beyond those of typical humans.
Theoretical discussion about advanced prosthetics and augmentation and their place in the world and human evolution has been going on for decades, but the advancements in prosthetic technology are drawing people ever closer to a day when many people may choose to become and experience more than they currently do.