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TED Talk: Berkeley Bionics

Eythor Bender of Berkeley Bionics spends six minutes talking about eLEGS, HULC, and the present and future of exoskeletons

1 min read
TED Talk: Berkeley Bionics

We were on hand when Berkeley Bionics introduced their eLEGS exoskeleton last October, and there’s no doubt that it’s a pretty amazing piece of hardware. The same company is also responsible for the HULC exoskeleton, which they’ve licensed to Lockheed Martin. If you’re already familiar with Berkeley Bionics’ stuff, there isn’t too much new in the presentation, but it’s always great to see these incredible exoskeletons in action:

Incidentally, media coverage of the eLEGS launch focused extensively on how the exoskeleton had the potential to “free” people with disabilities from what they seemed to assume is some kind of lousy and pitiable quality of life, which is certainly not the case. I’d encourage you to read this wonderful article by Gary Karp on the subject, and also consider how sometimes, people with “disabilities” can actually be super human in some ways.

[ Berkeley Bionics ] via [ TED ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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