Fluidhand is the future of prosthetic arms

fluid-hand-prosthesis.jpg

Researchers at the university of Heidelberg seem to have perfected the FluidHand, a prosthetic arm with the ability to manipulate each finger individually and provide sensory feedback to its user:

The flexible drives are located directly in the movable finger joints and operate on the biological principle of the spider leg – to flex the joints, elastic chambers are pumped up by miniature hydraulics. In this way, index finger, middle finger and thumb can be moved independently. The prosthetic hand gives the stump feedback, enabling the amputee to sense the strength of the grip.

An 18 year old born with a congenital limb deficiency is apparently very enthusiastic, prompting Futurismic to muse: “I don’t think it’s science fictional to suggest that we’ll be seeing prosthetic limbs that equal the functionality of the organic originals within a decade.”

I certainly hope that’s true. But I have a friend who was born deaf. A couple years ago, she got Cochlear Implants, which resulted in her being able to hear, but her being ostracized by her friends in the deaf community as some sort of race traitor. I wonder: do you think, if prosthetic technology becomes sufficiently advanced, we’ll see a backlash from the congenitally limb deficient community? I can’t imagine it from amputees, but what about those born without limbs? What do you think?

‘Fluidhand’: Each finger can be moved separately [Physorg via Futurismic via Grinding]

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13 Responses to Fluidhand is the future of prosthetic arms

  1. John Brownlee says:

    “Could this “friend” be a journalistic . . . ahh . . . composite? Based on the friend of a friend who knew a deaf girl and a character on a prime time soap? Just asking.”

    No.

  2. BelchFire3000 says:

    Could this “friend” be a journalistic . . . ahh . . . composite? Based on the friend of a friend who knew a deaf girl and a character on a prime time soap? Just asking.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My ex-girlfriend was born with a right arm that ends just past her elbow. (strangely enough, her identical twin has a full _left_ arm, but some mild deformity in her fingertips due to circulation problems there after birth, go fig.)

    She owns a prosthetic arm and has talked about wanting to learn to play cello with a modified hook for the prosthetic. The hassle and general uselessness of existing prosthetics, along with their high learning curve, has lead to her shelving those dreams for the time being.

    All the above is to illustrate one thing that might resemble backlash to an outsider, the learning curve. My ex is quite capable with her stump, she can’t do the same things with it that I can with my hand, but she is able to use the limb with grace and dexterity. A prosthetic would add almost a foot of insensate length to a very sensitive and and useful manipulator, and require the training up of several other body parts to manipulate correctly. It’s possible, but many natural-born limbless might not consider it worth the short and mid-term losses to gain some minor functionality at the cost of what they already have.

    *grin* I am not sure that another friend of mine would be _allowed_ to wear a prosthetic on a daily basis. Due to thalomide, his right arm stops about midway down the forearm and ends in a nigh-invulnerable disc of bone made from his wrist and fingers. He qualifies as “differently abled” even in the absence of political correctness. I cannot drive nails with my palm, nor shatter football helmets, nor set my entire arm to vibrating with the strength of a Sharper Image shiatsu massager. I don’t even think the “Luke” arm would be an acceptable replacement for what he has.

  4. dculberson says:

    “ostracized by her friends in the deaf community as some sort of race traitor”

    I’ve heard of this, and even read of deaf people fighting to stop deafness being treated like a disability. It makes no sense to me! I can not understand it at all.

    Removing a sense is a pretty clear cut disability. Adding it back or attempting to do so should not be seen as “discrimination.”

  5. murray says:

    My impression is that what you described is unique to the deaf community. I’ve never heard of any other community of disabled people being so protective of their condition.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The militant deaf community is absurd and escapes logic. It’s unfortunate, and I should hope that those who need robotic prosthetics don’t fall to the trap of denial that some deaf people use to rationalize the hand they’ve been dealt.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it’s ludicrous. What do they think ears are for; decoration? I was born legally blind. I can’t see very well at all and as I get older, it is getting worse. It’s not a culture, nor is it a validation of my humanity, it’s a body part that does not work very well and I would love to have better eyesight.

  8. redheadedandstrangerthan says:

    i’ve met a few people who have lost an arm or part of an arm and chosen to go without prosthetics, not because of any societal pressure, but because the prosthetics didn’t feel right and/or they didn’t work well enough to be truly useful. or in some instances, they wore the prosthetic for a particular task and then ditched it as soon as the task was completed.

    anyone with some actual experience trying to use a prosthetic limb want to chime in?

  9. Bugs says:

    I think that some sections of the deaf community feel that “curing” their condition by giving them implants suggests that they are incomplete as people. It’s percieved as a statement that their experience of the world is less valid and worthwhile than non-deaf people.

    I disagree, but I can see their point. Noone wants to think that they’ve been born flawed, or that their life experiences have less meaning than other people’s. Offering or accepting a cure like this could be interpreted as saying that.

    I’ve heard similar rumblings from autistic people and their families. A fairly small number of people are quite vocal in their argument that autistics have a different view of the world but not necessarily a less valid one. As such, they find attempts to find a cure for the condition (or even that it could be called a “cure”) insulting. Comparisons have been made to the attempts to find a cure for the “inferior” world-view that is homosexuality.

    And yes, I’m too lazy to find good links. Sorry, but it’s Friday, I’m tired and the pub is calling me!
    /typical Brit.

  10. EyeSpy Guy says:

    My cousin is deaf. She was raised in a family that strongly stressed speech therapy and lip reading. She didn’t know how to sign until her late 20s when she learned for a job in a deaf resources unit. Growing up, none of her friends were deaf, just because she didn’t really meet any.

    Through her job, she met her husband. A successful builder and football player. Wonderful man. He was raised by a family who taught him to sign. As a result his speech is almost unintelligible, and he only speaks to signing people. _All_ of his friends are deaf. At their wedding, about 1/3 of the people were deaf and could only communicate by signing.

    I can see that in his case that this would be terribly socially isolating.

    On the other hand, I have another friend who was born with one arm that ends at the elbow. He has suffered no social stigma or isolation because of this. I think he’d love to be a cyborg. Until now the prosthetics he has used are actually a lot less use than his little arm.

  11. Cupcake says:

    Well, they’d like to, but…you know. Typing.

    /tasteless

  12. PetroleumJelliffe says:

    Don’t little people ostracize each other if they try to increase heir height? It happened on Seinfeld at least, but it sounds plausible.

    I think the backlash is understandable. Deafness is a culture, just like being black, Jewish, or a little person. Trying to find a “cure” can be seen as turning your back on your culture and heritage.

  13. fred the monkey says:

    I have known several people with minor arm disabilities (missing or malformed digits) and they didn’t like to wear any sort of prosthetic device. The reasons given seemed to center around not drawing attention to their situation. Any prosthetic was likely to be more cumbersome and eye-catching than just their plain hand, regardless of whether there were any fingers present or not (Yay, Thalidomide!) Wearing something to compensate for their lack of gripping ability was not worth the extra stares and comments. Would they have felt differently if they had no hand at all? I don’t know, but I’ve yet to meet someone who used an assistive device (anything from a motorized wheelchair to reading glasses) who didn’t want to get rid of/make smaller the mechanical devices that get between them and the rest of the world…

    Mind you, I can’t wait until I can get my Aliens style exoskeleton, but that’s a different thing!

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