06/07/2016 / By Greg White
James Young lost his arm in an unfortunate accident about 4 years ago, when he accidentally fell under a train while trying to board it. Fortunately, through innovative technology, Young now has a bionic-arm like a character straight out of Metal Gear Solid.
In wake of the accident, James went home with what he dubbed a “peach-colored and obvious” prosthetic arm and leg with restrictive capabilities and a hook for a hand. “And the prostheses are operated by straps and strings, which is uncomfortable to do on a traumatically amputated stump,” Young said in article for the Daily Mail.
Later, Young became a participant in an experiment in which he was suited with a bionic arm. Young first stumbled across the arm upon viewing an advertisement from Konami, which also makes video games, seeking an amputee who would like to test a prosthetic limb.
The bionic limb is a technological novelty, which connects to the nerves and muscles in the shoulder. The arm was fitted at the studio of Sophie De Oliveria Brata, the creator behind the Alternative Limb Project.
Muscle signals are detected by sensors latched to the skin of the shoulders, which are anchored to a harness atop a body that moves the arm and hand. Adding to its aesthetic appeal, the contraption comes with lights that can be adjusted to reflect the user’s temper.
The bionic ligament is also equipped with a built-in smart watch, can charge mobile phones, grip and lift objects and even has a drone that can be fitted onto the shoulder. “It gives me a hand – and not a device. It’s soft, but firm, so it’s really nice to shake!”, Young said.
The arm is based upon a character named Snake in an action video game called Metal Gear Solid. “’I didn’t want to look like The Terminator because my job involves talking to doctors about the drugs they use. I didn’t want to look as if I’m going to kill someone,” he said.
Young is featured in a new documentary by the BBC, which follows him as he tries to live his new robotic life.
Although the arm has a variety of useful purposes, Young cannot sport it all the time. He takes the arm off whenever he showers or goes to bed. The arm clocks in at 10 pounds, which can become a drag after wearing it all day. Furthermore, since the device is a prototype, all the arm’s bolts and nuts are still being figured out.
Designs for cyborg legs and feet are more advanced than designs for hands, since legs are a common limb people lose due to accidents. Young intends to get an implant in his left leg and shoulder in order to bolster both areas. In addition, the arm could be upgraded to include titanium implants so the prosthetic limp could be fitted onto the shoulder with ease.
“The surgeons bore out some bone marrow and slide in a metal rod instead, so your bone cells can start to integrate with it,” Young explained.
Currently, titanium implants are reserved for military amputees in the UK only. There are no plans to make bionic implants available to the general public. As a result, Young began a fundraiser campaign to get implants known direct skeletal fixation or osseo- integration. In the long run, Young could raise enough money to receive a cyborg leg as well.
In the meantime, Open Bionics is attempting to get the bionic arm medically approved in order to convince the NHS to make the technology available to amputees across the UK.