Designer Prosthetics

Jensen hand (credit: Engadget)

Everyone who knows me knows I’m big on design, a proponent of the interdependence of form and function. Strict utilitarianism just doesn’t move me, or anyone else for that matter. Working well and looking good are not mutually exclusive, and if something achieves both goals then that’s a triumph of both form and function.

Now, we’re seeing design principles applied to the development of prosthetics, and it absolutely beautiful. The latest example I’d like to present is form a company called Open Bionics, who is making prosthetics that are not only especially functional, but easy on the eyes as well.

We can even bypass the neat prosthetics they make for kids that are modeled after superheroes or movie characters. You can see in the image below they have designs from Iron Man, Disney’s Frozen, and Star Wars. What’s really significant about designs like these is not that the designs themselves or even that they can be applied in such an interesting way, but that kids who are missing a limb are no longer the target of teasing or ridicule because of their condition, but rather a source of interest and awe, perhaps even some envy of the other kids. How the times have changed!

Themed prosthetics

Themed prosthetics

Building on that, back in 2011 a game was released by Eidos Interactive titled Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and it presented a scenario of violent protests and uprisings against ‘augmented humans,’ or those with prosthetics that gave them superhuman abilities and the companies that developed and implanted them.

I was very intrigued with this game (it was actually a very good game) not just because of the tight gameplay, but because of the well-developed and intricate plot and storytelling, the compelling characters and questions it poses. Here’s the trailer for the game, and you can see how it is presenting a world not too unlike our own.

It’s interesting how it seems we might be heading in the direction seen in the video. Humans love to find reasons to hate each other, so what happens when the prosthetics people are getting have abilities and capabilities that ‘regular’ human’s don’t? Would there perhaps even be a market for people who have no disabilities wanting prosthetic limbs anyway, because they are better than what we were born with? And those who are resentful that they lack those abilities?

Either way, the company I mentioned previously, Open Bionics, is developing a prosthetic limb based off – in appearance, anyway – the bionic hand used by Adam Jensen, the main character in the game that you see in the video above. You can get an idea of what the final form should look like in the header image. It’s an enviable thing of beauty; sleek black with gold accents and a decidedly futuristic feel.

And why not? As the technology evolves, so should the design, and we don’t live in the era of beige boxes anymore. And hey, they made an absolutely kick-ass model for this person, based off of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Link to the Steam Store – The official page has an age gate, and I don’t link to those). I am not being facetious when I say this guy is the envy of all his friends, and the interest of all the ladies – that arm is phenomenal.

The Phantom Arm

The Phantom Arm

Finally, I should mention the idea of augmented humans, humans with bionic capabilities that make them ‘better’ than ordinary humans, has been around for a while. One of the most well known from way back when was the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. It was hardly the first, but it was one of those futuristic ideas that still seemed plausible, and it turns out it actually is. I should also mention that it has one of the most well-known openers in TV history, which you can see below, and many full episodes are available on YouTube. On top of that, if you search for The Bionic Man on Google, it just returns results for this show; it knows what you really meant.

Now if we can put as much time and research into developing bionic eyes and other parts that don’t get the attention or time they deserve.

Going Up