“Bionic mind-controlled prothesis could be commercialized within a decade”. That’s what has been reported by Associated Press after the ascension of the Chicago Willis tower by Zac Vawter.
On November 4, 2012 this 31 year-old man made a world record mounting 103 flights of stairs during the world’s tallest indoor stair climb event. Why is this guy so particular? Because he climbed it with the first working mind-controlled robotic leg taking advantage of the targeted muscle reinnervation. This technique allows the connection between nerves and robotic implants meaning the transformation of nervous stimulis to control signals, moving the prothesis as a normal, fleshy leg. Everytime the owner puts weight on the prothesis, the electric impulses understand immediately the weight exerted and the two engines respond giving the amount of power needed to execute the desired action.
Thought-controlled arms have been available since many years thanks to the work of RIC (rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) but now this Institute focuses more and more on bionic legs since, as they say: “If a bionic hand fails, a person drops a glass of water. If a bionic leg fails, a person falls down stairs”. A lot of work and experimentation has been conducted and this new success opens the way to the activation of new federal fundings.
What I personally hope is that these limbs will be available to the commercialization within one or two decades (maybe with lighter components) although we know, and all the sci-fi movies agree, that they will be extremely expensive and available just for wealthy people. And maybe within a century we will seriously consider of modifying our limbs with bionic ones in order to have better prestation. Cyberpunk 2020 here we are.
[SCI-FI UPDATE 8th November 2012] Just today, in Google+ and Reddit, I was surprised by a massive number of people talking about another prothesis that has been called “the terminator”. It is manufactured by Bebionic Industries and tested on Nigel Ackland, a worker who lost his arm and hand in an accident 5 years ago. This arm and hand, made of carbon fibre and aluminium, have been programmed with 14 different grips that approximate human behavior, from a one-fingered point to a flexed fist that allows the owner to carry heavy objects.
What’s more, you have many optional feature and you can cover them with a synthetic coating of your favourite color (Bebionic suggests a color that is similar to the one of your skin). Waiting to see the war optionals!!!