Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cindy Koepp: Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology: Prosthetics

One of my favorite TV shows is The Six Million Dollar Man.
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071054 )

Yep. Vintage, but fun.

In The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve has prosthetic limbs (and an eye) after a crash that left him nearly dead. These nuclear-powered prosthetics look and feel like his original biologic limbs, but they’re much stronger.

https://www.amazon.com/Remnant-Stars-Cindy-Koepp-ebook/dp/B008LIRDEE In Remnant in the Stars, Major Kirsten Abbott ends up with a prosthetic forearm after she ejected from her crippled Pulsar light fighter and was hit by debris when it blew up. Unlike the 1974 TV show, Kirsten’s arm doesn’t cooperate with her, and it doesn’t feel like her own arm. Had it worked properly, it would have been a reasonable replacement, allowing her to move and act as if she hadn’t lost her forearm in the battle.

Our current prosthetics aren’t nearly as advanced as Kirsten’s arm, let alone The Six Million Dollar Man, but they’ve advanced beyond three-prong pincers and the like.

One recent innovation is ReWalk. This is similar to some of the powered armor suits being developed by the military, but it’s in no danger of turning someone into Iron Man. The ReWalk exoskeleton helps people with hip, knee, and spinal injuries to walk, climb stairs, and stand. It’s intended to help people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

Unfortunately, ReWalk is heavy, roughly 50 pounds. People using ReWalk need a walker or crutches to keep stable, so users need to have reasonable upper body strength.

Here, check this out to see how it works:

Another similar product is Ekso Bionics’ eLEGs (Exoskeleton Lower Extremity Gait System). It also weighs in at about 45 pounds and requires crutches for stability.

Here it is in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyOVYHoPopM

There is a military version called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier). It does not require crutches to keep the person steady, but then it’s intended, not for paraplegics, but for soldiers to help them carry greater loads in adverse conditions.

Watch this for more details:

Other companies are focusing on prosthetic arms and hands, some of which are very well-articulated.

Advanced Arm Dynamics is one of those companies. They have developed hands that can pick up small things like coins and dice. The one demonstrated in this video can be programmed using a smart phone.

Steeper has BeBionic, an articulated hand that has 14 grip patterns. Me? I didn’t realize there were 14 ways I could grip something, but the video on the page shows all 14 of them. One I wouldn’t have thought of was the Mouse Grip.

Here’s a video of a gent showing a prosthetic BeBionic forearm.

When I originally wrote Remnant in the Stars, the advances shown in these videos didn’t exist yet. Although the technology available today isn’t nearly what Kirsten has in the tale, I don’t doubt that our science will catch up long before the timeline of the story in few hundred years.

https://www.facebook.com/KoeppCOriginally from Michigan, Cindy Koepp has a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. After teaching for fourteen years, she pursued a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has five published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently working as an optician in Iowa and as an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press.