We’ve all grown up watching pirate movies, seeing hooks, peg legs, marbles substituted for glass eyes, but those aren’t the real deal. In fact, modern prosthetics have gone so far, that the line is beginning to blur, and it’s becoming harder to tell just what the real deal is anymore. Here we take a look at 15 of the most interesting prosthetic bits of genius of all time.
This ancient prosthetic toe goes to show just how much we’ve actually advanced over the last 3,000 years. That’s how old archaeologists believe it to be, since it was found on the mummified remains of an Egyptian noblewoman at a dig in Cairo. It’s made out of wood and leather, and apparently built to last since it still looks usable. Taking a look at this artifact now, you have to wonder, how far did we really come in this field, up until just the last decade?
In 2008 the International Association of Athletics Federations denied double-amputee Oscar Pistorius a chance to compete in the Summer Olympics because he was too fast. Pistorius was defiant, and appealed the decision. He won the appeal, but despite his being seriously awesome he failed to make the cut for the South African team, and didn’t get to run at Beijing. He’s nicknamed “Blade Runner” because his “feet” are made of carbon fiber springblades, which not only weigh considerably less than human feet, but put enormous bounce in every step.
That’s no Optimus Prime, that’s a tortoise on a Tonka truck. Tonka was happily minding her own business in the San Francisco Bay Area when she was attacked by a dog. She lost her leg in the combat but her indomitable will kept her going long enough for inventive local humanitarians to fit her with an old Tonka truck chassis. She took to wheeling around the city immediately and hasn’t stopped since.
In 2007, DARPA unveiled the world’s most advanced bionic arm, and said they wanted to have it done by the end of this year, 2009. The arm, looking more like something out of the Terminator, is in fact intended for military applications (hence DARPA taking the lead on it), but it offers so much more than that to anybody who’s lost their natural arm, civilian or not. The unit is meant to be a completely functional replacement for a regular human arm, able to grasp objects just like an able-bodied person would, only with the hardware involved the option is there to crush bone. This is some cool stuff.
Uzonka, probably the most unique stork in the world, hails from Romania. In this sad case, Uzonka’s beak was severely damaged when she was attacked by some pretty bad people, and she would surely not have survived in the wild. So after several operations, a group of veterinarians were able to fit her with a prosthetic beak. She’s been living the sweet stork life ever since.
Who could forget what was probably their first glimpse at the future of bionic limbs when they saw Luke’s creepy bionic hand damaged in The Empire Strikes Back? To the millions of kids who would later grow up nerds, this was both disturbing and fascinating at the same time, and in one word, awesome. This is the hand itself, on display in the Star Wars exhibition while at Fort Worth, TX.
“Immaculate” is a concept design by Hans Huseklepp that, you have to admit, if gets made a reality would make amputees cooler than you. The idea was basically this: Why should amputees live with disturbing facsimiles of the real thing when they could have something so much better? The joints would be able to spin a full 360º, allowing for some pretty wicked bartender tricks, and the whole time it’s sexier than an iPhone to boot.
A true dual-purpose design here; It’s a prosthetic leg, it’s a machine gun, it’s both. Sure, it’s not real, it has no articulating joint, it’d be illegal just about anywhere and it’s not too pretty. That’s not the point, is it? It’s a gun-leg. It doesn’t exactly hurt that it’s attached to Rose McGowan, either.
Cody McCasland was born under extreme complications, and was lucky to live at all. In the first two years of his life he went through countless surgeries, with a final endgame of having both legs amputated below the knees. Cody fought through it all, and his parents have made sure that he hasn’t missed an experience yet in his young life, regardless of his physical impairment. Using just about any prosthesis applicable, including “Blade Runner” style springboard feet, Cody does it all. The craziest of them: his prosthetic sled, which replaces ice-skates and allows the little guy to play actual hockey. Sound ridiculous? Tell that to Cody.
Rob Spence, attempting to become the world’s first eyeborg as he calls it, wasn’t about to let his prosthetic eye get him down. Taking a cue from Gibson novels, and being himself a filmmaker, Spence wants to install a camera in his fak
e eye. In the meantime, as a test to see about the feasibility of even getting electronics in a prosthetic eye, he’s set up an LED in there with its own power source. If he can accomplish that much, a camera doesn’t look too difficult.
Not that goats don’t deserve the same treatment as humans, or horses, or elephants or event turtles, but if I walk down a country road and see a goat hobble up on a prosthetic leg I’m probably going to laugh inappropriately and then feel guilty about it. It’s just plain weird, isn’t it? Anti-goat prejudices aside, these sort of prosthetics are nothing short of amazing in that, well, we can fix three-legged goats.
Robocop is the epitome of modern prosthetics. We’re talking about full-body prosthesis here, after all. He’s not Murphy anymore, he’s practically a machine, he’s Robocop. All that’s left of the original Alex Murphy here are a few vital organs, some facial tissue and some of his brain. The rest is Detroit’s and Japan’s finest finest technology, all rolled into one seriously awesome package.
With onboard a.i. and smooth-running electronically motorized actuators, Ossur’s POWER KNEE is nothing short of futuristic. They’re testing it now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and hope to actually have it release to the general public sometime in 2010. This thing is so far ahead of the game, it actively senses the landscape to help the walker maintain balance, and even helps walking up inclines or stairs by anticipating the next step and coaxing the muscles in the leg.
Inspiring far more attempts at mimicry than is safe for the world, Bruce Campbell’s character Ash in Army of Darkness sported a makeshift, emergency-necessitated chainsaw for a prosthetic arm. Throughout the story, this normally very dangerous thing was put to use in pragmatic ways, until finally being replaced by a iron and steel prosthetic arm with full articulation of the wrist and fingers. If only we could accomplish what the ancient Britons could accomplish when Bruce Campbell’s around, maybe we’d have a better world to live in.