Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cyborg Upgrade - Prosthetics in the Military

With the discussion surrounding surrounding cyborgs this week I looked in to some of the technology in prosthetics available to the US army. One exciting opportunity for amputee soldiors is German firm Otto Block's has C-leg. The c-leg runs off a lithium ion battery for a total running time of 30 hours. A microprocessor looks after sensors and servos which measure a wearers gait 50 times a second and make the nessesary adjustments needed to allow unhindered movement. At a cost of US$40,000 they are standard issue for all US soldiers who lose a leg above the knee.

The amazing thing about it is that this prosthetic is almost as good as a real leg and still allows those who are unfortunate enough to need them to do whatever they did before the accident. This product can turn the loss of a leg into the smallest disability one could hope for in that situation and lets people live a life as close as possible to the one they had before they were injured.
Advances such as this are available in many areas of body restoration and enhancement such as arms and ears. I think we are still very far off putting consumer technologies into our bodies as medical grade products have much stronger quality grades and reliability than we recieve from the corporations but we will steadily see more people with computer enhanced limbs and senses. Many of these technologies are on the cusp of crossing the line of being better than what they are intended to replace and as we move a few years doen the line they will likely pass that line. The person with the 'disability' of being deaf in one ear may end up hearing better than you or the guy with one leg may beat you to the last taxi. By mixing our bodies with high technology and microprocessors a 'disability' will not mean the same in 20 years that it does today.


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