Real prosthetic arm research to finally resolve existing problems [research]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Real prosthetic arm research to finally resolve existing problems [research]; published August 5, 2016, 07:49; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6302.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571555804, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Real prosthetic arm research to finally resolve existing problems [research]}}, month = {August},year = {2016}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=6302}}

Newly appointed Kenneth Pitoskin, professor of engineering, who has a background in surgery, automative design and materials sciences ("one cannot have enough knowhow under the hood"), said that it was time to put the ongoing drama regarding prosthetic arms to an end.

"We will build prosthetic arms that 90% of arm amputees will actually want to wear", he stated.

He said he has a large number of students to work on parts that thave previously been neglected.

"Almost everything that a good product needs has to actually be designed and built at one stage", he confessed after a large public conference where he had presented that strategy. "If you promised arm amputees prosthetic arms for decades and then find out you cannot deliver anything, you look really stupid. Then you at least have to offer them something else, and in this situations, I am afraid that a few chocolates won't do". Prosthetic component manufacturers see this as a real risk, however.

It is a known fact that sockets do not work well. Pitoskin said, it did not matter to him whether amputees had sockets or not as long as they were wearing the prosthetic limb. It is also known that posture interfering with grasp control was a real issue, but the Professor said they were looking into this as well. "You can convince people to do a lot of things. Look at how many people want to climb Mount Everest, and just how many more want to run a marathon. There is no comfort or reason in that". So he has a number of economics and marketing students work out ways to make arm amputees want to wear fully uncomfortable sockets and how to make them view this as civilatory advancement rather than nuisance. "It is a matter of attitude", Pitoskon added, "we follow in the steps of Mark Rippetoe here. Ultimately it is not a matter of trying to develop solutions no one could come up with for decades but to be convincing and overpowering. We have to convince arm amputees to go with what we have".

Regarding the complexity of controlling a five digit multiarticulated hand with a residual limb, Kenneth Pitoskin said that it would not be rocket science to get any type of simple control with even 1 degree of freedom to wrap around the grip change problems and that a student was currently working on solving that problem as well.

He said also that it was time to finally give amputees solutions, not more problems. Heather Dimatter, an arm amputee who is working with the team, said she felt very relieved that finally someone was "taking the issues seriously".

"Of course we want everything 3D printed", Pitoskin said. Amber Trillibits, a bubbly post graduate working with Pitoskin, chimed in to promote her part of the project. "We can sandpaper, gloss or color spray paint anything that is 3D printed", she gloated. She said that they could print science fiction super hero, fairy tale hero, or just normal kitchen hands, alongside with prosthetic shin or arm covers such as the ones already provided by current companies, "although we can offer them a lot cheaper".

Now, they realized that within the last few years, the general public increasingly directed their attention towards portable electronics, causing arm amputees to not get proper attention in typical public or semi-public situations, like public places, town halls, concert halls or public transport any more. The new prosthetic arms thus work as attention catching devices which, however, is a natural continuation of previous attempts to build prosthetic hands to only partly - but never really - match the appearance of natural human hands. So since decades, anyone who was looking could actually recognize that any prosthetic arm was artificial, which had always been a deliberate and wilful design property: with that, proper attention could be directed to the arm amputee, whether they were shopping or just visiting an art exhibition. But with the new electronic devices that successfully tie up the general public's attention and focus on a larger scale than ever before, arm amputees face the risk of becoming visually unimportant. The recent Pokemon Go craze is just a new example to show just how successfully public attention can be caught over days and weeks so arm amputees will not be noticed any more.  Heather Dimatter confirmed that angle, she said that when she would take strolls in public parks, no one would even superficially glance at her any more.

"After you are used to getting a lot of public attention for decades of flaunting a strange looking prosthetic arm, you now undergo withdrawal of that, that is not funny. People just do not care any more, now that they seem to have something more important on their portable devices all the time. Quite frankly I find that disturbing".

So she tried to wear a red tie or sock on the arm to make it unavoidable for the newly distracted public to lool at. She also sees  it as some sort of respect and remains hopeful to see "next generation" prostheses to come to fruition. "We see the raising of respect as a major step forward" also says 3D print aficionado Amber Trillibits, "and the path to solving that has to be by providing more visual appeal". First field tests with arm amputees with this new concept were extremely successful. Public by passers an on goers were asked  what they thought of the new prosthetic arm design and one area man admitted "I do not know what to think of it but it certainly looks like something now. It is great to see finally something being done though. It is hard to not look at it, it really draws you in". They even added flashing lights to attract onlookers more. A next step might be to turn any new prosthetic arm into a Pokemon Wiggle Stop with visitors being able to influence hand motion by throwing Pokeballs in certain directions. "This will tie arm amputees into the public in a whole new way", Poteskin says, "they will want to wear such an arm day and night no matter how uncomfortable it is".

They have social media experts working on the whole project as well. "We will have augmented human conferences, social media bionic conferences, cyborg races and even Sushi eating contests", Burt Humpelding said, who recently had majored in a new study field called "social media design" of the Southeastern University in Tampa FL. "Thus, we will get all relevant sponsors on board to pay back at least a part of what was spent".

After all, modern research and science does not necessarily have to be paid by Universities, Kenneth Pitoskin said. "That arm amputation is a significant disability can be seen by the jobs they have - if any. There are no hair dressers, no farmers, no hard working other people; the only thing they ever do is hint at a particular activity that they "could" do, but they are never able to carry anything strenuous to an end, not over days or weeks". In fact, research showed that a majority of arm amputees was quite proficient at fishing or playing games, riding quads or skiing, but at the same time, mostly unable to even provide house work. So the plan was not necessarily to rehabilitate them at all but to take the journey of prosthetic arms elsewhere altogether. They said that Fox was even looking into making a mini TV series, possibly a drama.

The plan with designing the new prosthetic arms was to make them look conspicuous and "have a lot of fun". To get arm amputees to wear them, function is overrated. Pitoskin himself draws upon fond memories as he once played Punch and Judy theater for pre-school children. "I am determined to bring the laughter back to arm amputees and the first important step is to avoid any unreasonable expectation". They just need to sit comfortably, be bathed in love, and surrounded with laughter.

Another professor, colloquially referred to as "Professor Rick", apparently tries to solve the prosthetic arm problem by implanting bolts into the stump bone. This type of approach is too much focused on medicine and surgery, according to Kenneth Pitoskin, because it is seen as ethically questionable to operate healthy individuals, and because furthermore there are ethical concerns with "informed consent" due to a Catch 22 of prosthetic arm research, and as there actually are real risks are involved. The Catch 22 of prosthetic arm research describes the apparent contradiction that one requires a significant degree of depression regarding one's body image to develop sufficient willpower to undergo painful, risky and experimental surgery to begin with, but informed consent guidelines also require there to be an absence of mental impairment.

Pitoskin said, that after equipping arm amputees with colored plastic arms and surrounding them with TV cameras or microphones, a good effect regarding their mental state could be "achieved a lot cheaper and with massively less risk".

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