In one of his many videos, Alex Roy discusses style and coolness of automobiles with a TV show host. They establish that clearly, a car that transcends time in coolness and ultimate grunt has these two qualities:
- the most reliable in terms of motor and drivetrain, with adequate modern materials
- the most fitting where necessary classical, conventional. established or optimized shape factor
He makes his case for a modern version of the Morgan Three Wheeler, an extremely light weight car with a Mazda gearbox, a motorbike motor and a wooden chassis. While this is obviously intentionally contentious, he makes a few extremely valid points throughout unintelligible babble, expressions of sheer joy and showing an assortment of scarves. Watching his series of technology comparisons or assessments from view of a die hard automobile lover, the resulting appreciations are not nearly as relevant as some of the single arguments or observations that he makes. As someone that took car driving to a high level in terms of some achievements, it is the blend of technology, what function should or should not contain, and human interaction, where emotions clearly come in (or, if they do not come in, do not come in).
The enjoyment that comes with very intelligently combining ancient proven principles with the most modern of implementing these, design and material wise, can be very high.
Recently I made this experience by introducing myself to a real road bike. There, top Swiss road bike assembly mechanics and disability sports advocates alike all said this could not be done, like, at all, and they urgently required me to consider an electronic gear switch system with some Bluetooth technology. I was afraid to even get close to this subject but after playing around with my SO's bike brakes and gear levers for a bit I was, like, screw it, let me work this out by myself. There is definite enjoyment in getting mechanical rides pure and fast, light and elegant.
Body powered arms provide this as well, at least in principle. To achieve their full potential I found that body powered arms also need a few after market improvements that me and friends developed together, some of which now are patented not primarily to make millions or even just a few cents, but primarily in order to prevent large manufacturers of junk to sell our designs back to us:
- Using a shoulder anchor rather than a figure 9 harness, using flexible plastic and carbon fiber for building it, solves the plexus compression problem.
- Using a true Bowden mount principle solves the cable shredding and curved routing high impedance problem.
- Using a quick lock ball lock wrist solves the wiggle problem of the prosthetic wrist.
There, the drive train of a car is analog to a proven body powered setup. The build cannot be left to beginners - it as to be mechanically proficient. Mechanical design wise, you want the latest and material wise the best. And the looks can well be as they happen to be: most likely, no one (really) cares. The look in the end is "technical", "raw", "mechanic". Just like a Morgan Three Wheeler has a raw, technical mechanical look that does not make it less cool a bit. The real enjoyment is slightly elsewhere.
These points are re-iterated with a video series of Alex Roy's Polizei 144 where he comments on "Morgan Three Wheeler versus" (some other cars). He addresses needs and performances of cars based on real world criteria - an approach that is sorely needed for prosthetic arms.
After all, cars to walking or running are what prostheses are to an amputee. Cars are modern locomotion prostheses. The approach to their embodiment thus may have a few shocking similarities. Just as cars, however, prosthetic arms also contain governing principles, underlying paradigms, that provide much of the undeclared difference that modern research or component development forgets. If you have no control concept, you cannot get the details right either. And just because I declare something as being more junk than something else does not mean there is not underlying and extremely well thought out principle. Maybe this all (here?) is a giant test to see whether you are, in fact, able to discern, recognize and understand principles of control and design while only offering handles, glimpses and superficial peeks into what really plays out.
One true to life aspect is that "real men" (in no way meant other than tongue in cheek) [link to datamation article] providing "real work" (rather than "pansy boys wearing junk") require adequate tough materials. The joke is only so and so good though. In the end, Real Men (note the difference from "real men") do provide some experiences and solutions that others can build on. If you can provide better mechanical solutions, then you are The Man.
The myoelectric arm may compare to an after market Mustang where the body powered arm may come across as a legendary newly build Morgan Three Wheeler. How to go about assessing true nonsense or junk is adequately shown by Alex Roy here.
Along these lines:
- Myoelectric arms are electric, they need batteries and electrodes. These periodically if not increasingly malfunction. They need constant attention. My well built body powered arms work for many months without complaining. Therefore myoelectrics are junk and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms are heavy and noisy. When manufacturers are asked about the noise they act as if it was a feature. So myoelectric arms, particularly "bionic" hands, demand unwarranted attention, therefore they are junk and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms chafe up my stump both due to mechanical fit, and electrical burn reasons. They are junk and the body powered arm wins.
- With my body powered arm, independent of just how much I sweat or freeze, I can reliably ride and hold my bicycle handle bar and thus ride my bike. All other arms that cannot do that are junk and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms are cool to pose on Instagram. No one cares, however, about images where people are posing with junk generally, and so the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms stop working shortly after I break out in sweat. I just need to get jobs done where I sweat. They could identify that as a problem and probably solve it by increasing SNR technically and by using up a lot more batteries. But really, all that happens is that with myoelectric arms, I cannot get hard jobs done. No one cares though, these are junk, and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms and body powered arms can be theoretically compared with statistics. But, no one can do proper statistics. These statistics would have to explain to someone that does not want to understand this why myoelectric arms are junk and the body powered arm wins. But no one cares about statistics either, so myoelectric arms keep being junk, these statistics are junk, and body powered arms win.
- There is the Extreme Cyborging dimension of true hard use. Check these. The body powered arm is the Chuck Norris of prosthetic arms. The body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms are unreliable. You cannot even plan grips. They are junk and body powered arms win.
- Myoelectric arms cost an arm, if not a leg as well. If you cannot build a functioning prosthetic arm that survives arctic, desert or alpine abuse, for affordable amounts of money, so your myoelectric arm will be junk - and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric arms will be a great financial win for the manufacturer and the technician as they get to sell them for a large percentage surplus. So alone based on that they are junk and the body powered arm wins.
- Myoelectric Otto Bock batteries contained ~10 USD street price batteries sold for ~700 USD or thereabouts. These people that sell these batteries must think amputees are a glutton for punishment on top of being amputees. Therefore myoelectrics are absolute junk and the body powered arm wins.
Of course you have every right to believe there to be a different truth. A person's wishes are their kingdom, after all. But after giving me a run-around for the first 2-3 years with regard to stock part body powered setups and after further runarounds with the myoelectric arm, this is not a protocol, or a superficial attempt to be blunt, but a succinct summary based on painful experience. I could type a similar list about why myoelectric arms are junk and wearing no prosthetic arm wins, and provide examples. Your mileage may vary.