Thalmic Labs Myo - first test of flexible 8 x 3 electrode Bluetooth myoelectric control arm band on forearm stump [damn!]
Haha, new gadget.
As we all know, we are (some of us painfully so) trying to assume what is still widely considered a "normal" human shape using "bionic" prostheses. That will tear us up between two impossibles - one must become ruthlessly non-human or less-than-human (essentially failing the Voight-Kampff test) in order to get to that restored human state one senses to attain. We are thus dealing with requirements that cannot be both met at once, but, that both will have to be met at once to move forward with the existing technologies. In essence, but really only if you are a problem solver, this can be seen as a riddle.
This riddle description and reference to Blade Runner appear to be ever so slightly academic, quirky and neurotic - but only at first sight. The thing is, I point that out with a clear reason and purpose. The only rational and the only logical solution, in order to resolve that above mentioned riddle that is posed to you by the bare realities of life and then some (below), is to find (in my instance) or develop (maybe in your instance) other, different and better technology. There really is no other way. Basically, one has to solve the socket problem that affects all "Russian arm" derived prostheses, and that problem is around 60 years old now. Also that is totally logical.
However, that, by and large, is certainly the direct consequence of a range of a number of actors' short comings:
- most academic research performed under the amputee excuse largely if not totally fails our community, ever since the times of the "Russian arm"; accepting negative feedback, and using that to move forward, is actually impossible, it seems; in this instance, academia tries to "restore arm amputees to full humans" (hence that astonishing anthropomorphic obsession!), and for that to work as vision they necessarily see us in our current state (lacking these researchers' results, obviously) as somewhat less than human, subhuman or otherwise reduced; in order to believe an arm amputee's statements to a degree where the issues hit home, however, an academic researcher would forcedly have to view that amputee as a real person, as a full human; then however that full person would not be restored into that full person any more by anything, so this is another logic conundrum;
- component industries, that mostly seem to work with outdated ideas, designs and cheap wages; research to actually put performance where the need is is done only in a very limited amount, at times external solutions or patents are acquired, but really, a comprehensive approach is absent. Customer service experiences range from the positive to the absurd. There, amputees are probably seen as some type of uneducated, unshaped, eerie mass of subhumans against which manufacturers are best advised to protect themselves. Any usage of a device that damages is necessarily and by definition is a breach of warranty terms (as otherwise why did the device break);
- arm amputees so far failed to make their points heard to a degree that push comes to shove, to a degree that stones weep, to a degree that spoons bend. So not all is to blame on researchers and industries. Arm amputees united probably, so far, failed to come across as a coherent group of people with a strong technical focus, with well argued views, with an aggressive agenda and clear goals. The group is probably small and heterogenous, so small that insurances do not care to keep track, and history starts to repeat itself since the times of the Carnes arm.
However there are nice exceptions. The Becker hand, the V2P Prehensor, the Puppchen wrist, the Mert hand, new developments in the iLimb, the way one can order parts from Centri (customized stuff) or Hosmer, are great to see.
And now there is the Myo by Thalmic Labs. A flexible band, containing 8 x 3 electrodes and Micro USB port for the rechargeables and a Bluetooth connection to the computer. The whole unit including software and connectors costs 199 USD (compared to a whopping 80'000 to 100'000 CHF of "bionic" hands, and compared to a 700-800 USD price tag on Otto Bock rechargeable batteries alone).